Kenji Johjima surprisingly opts out of Mariners contract, returns to Japan

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Kenji Johjima had two years and $16 million remaining on the contract extension that Bill Bavasi misguidedly handed out as one of his final acts as Mariners general manager, but the 33-year-old catcher has decided to accept an undisclosed buyout from the team and finish his career in Japan.
According to Larry LaRue of the Tacoma News Tribune, Johjima’s interest in returning home increased when the Mariners informed him that he’d likely be a backup in 2010 after hitting just .247/.296/.406 this season and .227/.277/.332 last year.
Here’s what Johjima said about the decision to resume playing in Japan after four seasons in Seattle:

After lots of very deep thought and deliberation, I have decided to return home to resume my career in Japan. I have had a wonderful experience competing at the Major League level. The last four years have been extraordinary, with great teammates and great coaches.



I will always be indebted to the Mariners organization for giving me the opportunity to follow my dream. This was a very difficult decision, both professionally and personally. I feel now is the time to go home, while I still can perform at a very high level. Playing close to family and friends was a major factor. I will miss the Seattle fans and their gracious support.

Johjima’s big-league career began with back-to-back strong seasons, but his decline since then has been significant enough that he’s no longer a starting-caliber backstop, let alone one worth $8 million per year. Assuming that the undisclosed buyout amount isn’t more than a fraction of the $16 million Johjima is owed, the Mariners stand to benefit quite a bit from his decision.
Rob Johnson replaces Johjima atop the catching depth chart for now, but 25-year-old prospect Adam Moore is just about MLB-ready after hitting .309/.391/.489 at Double-A and .294/.346/.429 at Triple-A. Transitioning to Moore as the starter behind the plate with Johnson as his veteran backup figures to be no less productive than Johjima even without factoring in the millions saved.

Jeff Wilpon reminds Mets fans that insuring David Wright “is not cheap”

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It’s can’t be easy being a Mets fan. Your team plays in the biggest city in America and should, theoretically, have big payrolls and always be in contention. They aren’t, however, partially because of horrendous luck and ill-timed injuries, partially because of poor baseball decisions and partially because the team’s ownership got taken down by a Ponzi scheme that, one would think anyway, sophisticated businessmen would recognize as a Ponzi scheme. We’ll leave that go, though.

What Mets fans are left with are (a) occasional windows of contention, such as we saw in 2014-16; (b) times of frustrating austerity on the part of ownership when, one would hope anyway, some money would be spent; (c) an inordinate focus on tabloidy and scandalous nonsense which just always seems to surround the club; and (c) a lot of disappointment.

You can file this latest bit under any of or many of the above categories, but it is uniquely Mets.

Team president Jeff Wilpon spoke to the press this afternoon about team payroll. In talking about payroll, David Wright‘s salary was included despite the fact that he may never play again and despite the fact that insurance is picking up most of the tab. Wilpon’s comment:

I’m guessing every team has a line item, someplace, about the costs of insurance. They’re businesses after all, and all businesses have to deal with that. They do not talk about it as a barrier to spending more money on players to the press, however, as they likely know that fans want to be told a story of hope and baseball-driven decisions heading into a new season and do not want to hear about all of the reasons the club will not spend any money despite sitting in a huge market.

This doesn’t change a thing about what the Mets were going to do or not do, but it does have the added bonus of making Mets fans roll their eyes and ask themselves what they did to deserve these owners. And that, more than almost anything, is the essence of Mets fandom these days.