The Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles have announced the signing of outfielder/first baseman Jose Marmolejos. According to Tacoma Rainiers broadcaster Mike Curto (Twitter link), “multiple Japanese teams” were scouting Marmolejos last season.
Marmolejos turns 29 in January, and is coming off a season that saw him win MVP honors in Triple-A West. Over 83 games and 353 plate appearances with the Mariners’ affiliate in Tacoma, Marmolejos hit .338/.439/.672 with 26 home runs. Between this performance and some other big numbers with the Nationals’ Triple-A club in 2019, it seems as though Marmolejos doesn’t have much left to prove at the top minor league level, though he has yet to translate that production to the majors.
Appearing in 76 games with the Mariners in 2020-21, Marmolejos has hit only .183/.262/.362 with 10 homers in 237 PA against big league pitching. Seattle designated him for assignment and outrighted him off its 40-man roster twice last season, which allowed Marmolejos to opt for free agency after the season, and he exercised that right back in October.
It’s easy to see why NPB teams would have interest in Marmolejos’ services, and with the Eagles specifically, he could slide right into the role occupied by former big leaguer Brandon Dixon in 2021. (As per reporter Jim Allen, Dixon won’t be back with the Tohuku club next year after struggling last season.) Marmolejos could be in line for regular work as a corner outfielder, and could also see time as a first baseman depending on how the Eagles align their roster.