It appears as though both Brian Sweeney and Terrmel Sledge may not be returning to the Nippon Ham Fighters next season. With Ryan Wing and Jason Botts also gone, that would mean the Fighters are letting all their foreign players walk this off-season. And while I wouldn't classify letting Sweeney, Wing, and Botts walk as bad moves, I'm not quite sure if letting Sledge go is the best way to go about saving money.
According to Sponichi, Sledge's agent is saying it'll take a multi-year deal worth at least 200M yen per season. That's up from 135M yen this past season. Based on salaries for this past season, that would make Sledge the third highest player on the roster behind Atsunori Inaba (300M yen) and Yu Darvish (270M yen).
That might seem like a lot of money, considering Tony Blanco just went for 165M yen, but it's also far less than what Tuffy Rhodes (320M yen) and Alex Cabrera (300M yen) were paid this past season.
Let's take a look at the numbers Sledge put up this season:
He led his team in home runs (27), RBI (88), and SLG (.529). He also walked 58 times (3rd on the team) and had a .359 OBP (4th on the team). And his .888 OPS was second only to Yoshio Itoi's .901 on the team. His RC27 also came in at 6.49, third best on the team.
Sledge did also lead the team in strike outs (108), but considering his power output, I think that's a small price to pay.
The only reason why letting Sledge walk might make sense is if the team is banking on stronger output from players like Itoi and Eiichi Koyano next season. But with Inaba turning 38 and Makoto Kaneko turning 35 next season, is it really smart to subtract Sledge?
The Fighters could also be hoping on finding a cheaper foreign import, but just as Jason Botts showed (as well Kevin Mench with the Tigers), finding a foreign player that can hit well in Japan isn't always an easy task.
What are your thoughts?