Sponchi posted a series of articles yesterday regarding the possibility of Kenji Johjima returning to Japan next season. Prior to heading off to the Majors, Johjima said that he wanted to return to Japan while he was still able to play so that he could teach what he learned in the US to players over here.
Is it possible that that timing is now?
Johjima just signed a 3-year extension with the Mariners at the end of the 2008 season, but his playing time has continued to decrease and according to Sponichi, he has opted out of a number of Mariners-related events and photo shoots for the next season. Current rumors pick the 20th as the date he'll try to exercise an opt-out clause in his contract that will allow him to make a return to the NPB. Although I'm not entirely sure how he'll get out of his contract since it appears the opt-out clause can only be used if there's a family emergency that requires he return to Japan. Could the fact this his wife returned to Japan be used as a reason?
Johjima also mentioned that he'd return to the Hawks after he played a few years in the Majors, saying that he wasn't necessarily moving away to the Majors, but rather studying abroad. The only problem is, the Hawks have a pretty good catcher playing for them right now (Hidenori Tanoue) and may not require his services.
But Johjima probably won't have to worry too much about finding a team to latch on to should he decide to return to Japan; the Tigers have already put out feelers for the catcher and could be a potential landing spot.
=== Update 10/16/2009 @ 8:53am JST
Tigers' president Numazawa: "Sponichi wrote a story about it. Right now, I don't have any comments."
Tigers' owner Shinya Sakai: "We don't have an endless supply of money, but I think we do need to spend it. I'd also like to try and create a team that the fans can hold high expectations to."
The Tigers are said to be mulling a multi-year deal with a yearly salary over 500M yen plus bonuses.