Veteran first baseman Justin Smoak, who’d signed with the Yomiuri Giants of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball over the winter, has returned to the United States to be with his family, the Japan Times recently reported. The 34-year-old switch-hitter was productive in his limited run for the second-place Giants, slashing .272/.336/.482 with seven homers and three doubles in 34 games, but Giants representative Atsuhiro Otsuka told the Times that Smoak’s “love of family outweighed everything else.” As the Times’ Jason Coskrey writes in a second column, the Giants attempted to find ways to reunite the family in Japan, but current travel restrictions there made that impossible.
Smoak’s wife, Kristin, shared a heartwarming video of him returning home to surprise his daughters (Twitter link), calling it a “terribly tough decision” and noting the “amazing” support and understanding the Giants provided throughout the situation. Kristin Smoak later tweeted that the family has been “blown away by the genuine kindness and understanding we have received” from NPB fans.
A few more notes out of Japan and South Korea…
- The Orix Buffaloes announced this week that they’ve signed right-hander Glenn Sparkman to a contract for the remainder of the season (Yahoo Japan link). He’ll take the roster spot of righty Brandon Dickson, who recently returned to the U.S. to sign a minor league deal with the Cardinals. Sparkman was on a minor league deal with the Twins earlier this year but was released in mid-May. He’s spent parts of four straight seasons in the Majors (2017-20), including a 2019 campaign in which he racked up 136 1/3 innings for the Royals. Sparkman has just a 5.99 ERA in 180 1/3 MLB frames, but he carries a career 2.88 ERA in 378 2/3 minor league innings — including a 3.51 mark in parts of four Triple-A seasons.
- The Kiwoom Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization announced that they’ve placed designated hitter/catcher/first baseman David Freitas on waivers (link via Jee-ho Yoo of the Yonhap News Agency). They’re now in the mix for a new bat to add to the lineup. Freitas, 32, was the Heroes’ primary designated hitter but slashed a fairly tepid .259/.297/.374 with two homers and 10 doubles in 148 plate appearances. The former Braves, Mariners and Brewers catcher posted a ridiculous .381/.461/.561 line in 382 Triple-A plate appearances back in 2019 and has a generally strong track record at that level, but he’s yet to produce much in the game’s top leagues in North America or South Korea.