Johjima returns to Japan with $21 million deal

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Kenji Johjima did the Mariners a huge favor last week by simply walking away from the final two years and $16 million on his contract, but it turns out that he had more money waiting for him back in Japan.
Prior to signing with the Mariners in 2006 he spent a decade starring for the Softbank Hawks and Johjima talked to his former team about returning before ultimately agreeing to a four-year, $21 million deal with the Hanshin Tigers.
Everything worked out well for Johjima, who trades a backup role and $16 million in Seattle for a starting job and $21 million in Japan, but the Mariners are even bigger winners by clearing his salary off the books. For now prospect Adam Moore is penciled in as their starting catcher, but he’ll get competition from either Rob Johnson or a veteran acquired this offseason.

Phillies considering Chase Utley for bench coach

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Sports radio personality Howard Eskin is hearing a fun rumor that the Philadelphia Phillies are considering Chase Utley to be their bench coach.

Utley hasn’t retired yet, but he is almost 39, is a free agent and is unlikely to find anything beyond a bench role at best at this point. Time for a career change? Who knows, as this popping up over Thanksgiving makes it hard to confirm or deny one way or the other. It’s fun to think about, though. Over the past four or five years, as Utley’s production has declined, he has been widely praised as a good clubhouse presence and mentor, so it would not be hard to imagine him transitioning into a formal coaching role.

Utley, of course, played for the Phillies for thirteen seasons. If he’s going to break into coaching, he’s most likely to do it there.