Oct 19, 2009, 3:24 PM EDT
While already saying all of the right things, the Mariners are undoubtedly thrilled to have Kenji Johjima’s $8 million salary in each of the next two seasons off the books. They’re even reportedly getting out from under the disastrous contract without having to pay a buyout. By playing it as strictly Johjima’s decision, they’re going to be in the clear with baseball. One wonders if the Players Association will let it go so easily.
After all, the MLBPA is more interested in what’s best for the union as a whole than what an individual player may desire. That was made clear after the 2003 season, when the union would not allow Alex Rodriguez to restructure his deal as he desired in order to facilitate a trade to the Red Sox.
In this case, Johjima, the game’s third highest-paid catcher behind Jorge Posada and Joe Mauer, is giving up $16 million without receiving a penny in return. He’ll return to Japan and command a fine salary there, but it won’t rival what he was going to make as a Mariner.
Of course, Johjima will no longer be a part of the MLBPA then. And the $16 million he was due to make figures to be divvied up and given to other members of the MLBPA. The demand for this year’s crop of catchers just got a little greater, and guys like Bengie Molina, Ivan Rodriguez and Jason Varitek could benefit as a result.
So will the Players Association step in? Probably not. Should the union? If there’s some evidence that Johjima was told he’d return to the Mariners as a backup and was pressured into opting out, it definitely should. But there won’t be any evidence unless Johjima wants a fight, and odds are that he’ll be perfectly content returning home as one of Japan’s highest-paid players. It’ll be a big win for the Mariners, and a nice treat for Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik, who finds himself completely off the hook for one of the team’s biggest mistakes from Bill Bavasi’s tenure.
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