Johjima Opts out

» 21 October 2009 » In international baseball, nichibei »

As previously reported in Japanese, Kenji Johjima has decided to opt out of the final two years of his contract with the Seattle Mariners. Johjima was the first Japanese catcher in the big leagues, playing in total of 462 games in the span of four seasons.

His NPB power bat did not translate well for him in the big leagues and it became a struggle to earn regular playing time last season with the Mariners, as he appeared in only 71 games. A pair of injuries limited his playing time as well.

Earlier this week, there was speculation that an opt out move was in the works, citing Johjima’s cancelled off-season Mariners PR work. Johjima is known to be quoted in saying, “I do not feel strongly to live and die in the majors for the rest of my career. I would like to take back to Japan what I learned from the States, and want to go back while I can still contribute to a team.”

There have been reports already that the Hanshin Tigers are interested and his former team, Softbank Hawks, should be another possibility. Johjima should still be one of the best catchers in Japan, once landing with a team and Japanese fans should be happy to get him back.

Now the question is when will we see another Japanese catcher be to challenge for an opportunity in the majors, and who will it be? Motonobu Tanishige and Ryoji Aikawa both failed to garner offers in their attempts to move over as free agents.

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