10 Years for Aoki?
The Yakult Swallows are apparently willing to consider a long term contract for star centerfielder Norichika Aoki — perhaps as much as ten years. Said team administrator Katsutoshi Oki: “If he says it himself we’ll consider it (a long term contract). Even 10 years.” When asked to respond, Aoki commented, “I’m happy to be a player they’ll say that about. I’ll think it over carefully from now”.
I doubt anything will come of this, but in a sense it’s good that Yakult is willing to offer a long-term deal. Aoki is almost certainly the best hitter in Japan right now, and Yakult refused to post him a few years ago. Though obviously the Swallows won’t pay anything near what he would command in MLB, at least they are outwardly willing to commit to their star players. Signing a deal that runs at least until Aoki qualifies for free agency would make sense for both sides.
Korean righthander Sung-Min Cho holds the record for longest NPB contract, with his eight-year deal with Yomiuri that ran from 1996-2003. Nobuhiko Matsunaka holds the record for Japanese players with his seven-year contract with SoftBank, signed after the 2006 season. The Giants offered Hideki Matsui an eight-year, ￥6bn ($60m) contract after the 2000 season, but he turned it down citing a desire to play in the bigs.