The Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters have signed free agent infielder Renato Nunez, according to multiple reports out of Japan (including Yahoo Japan). Nunez’s one-year contract will pay him 180 million yen plus incentives, which works out to roughly $1.6MM in U.S. dollars.
Nunez heads to Nippon Professional Baseball after six years in the majors, highlighted by a 31-homer season with the Orioles in 2019. Nunez has shown some power but not much in the way of average or OBP, and below-average corner infield glovework. As a result, the Orioles non-tendered him last winter, and Nunez could find only a minor league deal with the Tigers.
There wasn’t much playing time to be found in Detroit, as Nunez received only 55 MLB plate appearances last season and hit .189/.218/.472. After being released by the Tigers in August, Nunez caught on with the Brewers on another minor league deal but didn’t see any action in the big leagues. While Nunez didn’t hit much for the Brewers’ Triple-A affiliate, he did put up some big numbers at Triple-A Toledo, hitting .291/.383/.585 with 20 homers over 311 PA for the Tigers’ top farm team.
Nunez had the ability to elect free agency after the season, and he took that option to return to the open market and subsequently land a deal with the Fighters. Nunez still doesn’t turn 28 years old until April, and he’d be far from the first hitter to rediscover their stroke after a stint in Japan. If Nunez can translate his power into more consistent production at the plate, he could carve out a nice niche for himself with the Fighters, or perhaps return to MLB down the road.