The Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball have announced a one-year deal with first baseman Gaby Sanchez, according to the Associated Press (via ESPN.com). Sanchez will earn approximately $2.5MM and can achieve more through incentives, per the report.
Sanchez, 31, swings from the right side of the plate. He has been with the Pirates since a mid-season deal back in 2012. Serving in a platoon capacity in Pittsburgh, Sanchez had a solid 2013 but took a step back last year with a .229/.293/.385 slash over 290 plate appearances while enjoying the platoon advantage in over half of his trips to bat.
That recent performance did not meet the expectations set earlier in Sanchez’s career with the Marlins, when he became a steady regular at the first base position. Sanchez hit .269/.346/.437 with 38 total home runs while playing every day in 2010-11 with the Fish. After an All-Star appearance in 2011, however, Sanchez struggled in the second half and never regained his footing in Miami.
The University of Miami product was designated and non-tendered by the Pirates back in December. With just over $5MM in career earnings at the big league level, and a likely lack of an opportunity to land a significant guarantee in the big leagues, it is easy to see the appeal in the contract that Sanchez accepted. And, of course, the path back from Japan to MLB has been taken by many players who have performed in the NPB.