Rakuten Golden Eagles Sign Gaby Sanchez for 250 Million Yen
The Rakuten Golden Eagles just signed former Miami Marlin and Pittsburgh Pirates Gaby Sanchez to a one-year deal for a reported 250 million yen, which at current exchange rates comes to about $2.09 million. If the reported amount is right, it’s a big contract for an American player who hasn’t yet played a game in NPB.
Sanchez will be 31 in 2015, which means he’s getting up there, and he’s an extreme platoon hitter, with a career .863 OPS against left-handed pitchers, but only .691 against righties in MLB. This suggests that his most effective role is as a platoon player, which isn’t what he’s going to be paid to do in Japan.
In fact, the American position players NPB should be targeting are the 4-A and marginal major leaguers with very small platoon differentials. These guys don’t have as much value in MLB as the Gaby Sanchez, Seth Smith, Jonny Gomes types, who can be used with great effect as platoon pieces. However, they would probably make more effective everyday players in Japan, because they aren’t as subject to relief pitcher platoon match-ups.
I note that two highly paid former major leaguers who were expected to excel in Japan but didn’t, Dan Johnson and Bryan LaHair, have pretty extreme platoon differentials. Johnson actually has a reverse platoon differential in his major league career, but as an everyday player in the minors the last five years, his platoon differential has been extreme.
milb.com is now providing splits for minor league players, so you have to think that NPB teams have this information also if they want to use it in making their decisions.