NOVEMBER 30: The deal is official, Hague himself announced on Twitter.
NOVEMBER 25: The Blue Jays have reached an agreement with the Hanshin Tigers of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball that will send Triple-A International League MVP Matt Hague to Hanshin in exchange for $300K, reports Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. The deal isn’t yet complete, according to Nicholson-Smith, but Hague has been removed from Toronto’s 40-man roster.
In situations such as this, the money exchanged will typically serve as compensation for the team’s agreement to release the player, who is then free to sign a new, more lucrative contract with the overseas club. It’s not clear what type of contract Hague will receive in Japan, but he’ll certainly earn more than he would have with another up-and-down season with a Major League organization and could very well secure $1MM or more.
Hague, 30, had the best all-around Triple-A season of his career in 2015, batting .338/.416/.468 with 11 home runs in 596 plate appearances. While the home runs were shy of his previous career-highs, he’s never hit for the type of average or gotten on base at that lofty a rate previously. Hague split his time evenly between first base and third base this past season but has a good deal more experience playing first base in his career as a whole.
The Blue Jays claimed Hague off waivers from the Pirates in 2014 based on the strength of his Triple-A numbers, but while he continued his excellent minor league production with Toronto, he received just 15 plate appearances on a Major League club rife with potent corner options (most notably Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion but also Chris Colabello, Justin Smoak and, earlier in the season, Danny Valencia as well). Hague is a career .226/.286/.262 hitter in a small sample of 91 Major League plate appearances but has a far more robust triple-slash of .302/.377/.433 across parts of five seasons at the Triple-A level.