Wladimir Balentien, Lastings Milledge get multiyear deals in Japan

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For the longest time, it was unheard of for Japanese teams to sign its gaijin, or foreign-born players, to multiyear deals. That’s changed of late, though, and the Yakult Swallows have inked three of their imports to two- and three-year deals, MLB Trade Rumors reports.

According to Tim Dierkes, the Swallows have re-signed outfielder Wladmir Balentien to a three-year, $7.5 million contract, outfielder Lastings Milledge to a three-year, $4.4 million contract and reliever Tony Barnette to a two-year, $3.2 million contract.

Balentien hit .272/.386/.572 with a Central League-high 31 homers last year in his second season in Japan. Milledge hit .300/.379/.485 with 21 homers. The two were easily the Swallows’ best hitters; no one else on the squad managed an .800 OPS.

Barnette had 33 saves and a 1.82 ERA as the team’s closer.

While there probably weren’t any major league teams craving another shot at Milledge or Barnette, Balentien likely would have drawn some interest had he waited another year and chosen to return to the United States. The 28-year-old disappointed in his early major league stints, but he hardly embarrassed himself. After getting traded away from the Mariners and out of Safeco, he hit a respectable .264/.352/.427 in 110 at-bats for the Reds in 2009.

Check out Minute Maid Park without Tal’s Hill

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During the offseason, the Astros finally got rid of Tal’s Hill in center field. It was a throwback to older stadiums, some of which had uneven topography — Crosley Field, namely. As unique as it was in the age of cookie cutter sports stadiums, most of us were holding our collective breaths hoping no one ruptured an Achilles or suffered another brutal injury trying to navigate the hill while attempting to catch a fly ball.

We saw what it looked like during reconstruction:

And now, via Julia Morales of ROOT Sports, we see what it looks like after all the work has been done:

The Astros are allowing fans with Lexus Field Club tickets to stand on the new warning track to watch batting practice and shag fly balls as well, Morales notes. Lexus Field Club is where Tal’s Hill used to be.

Good riddance, Tal’s Hill.

Jhoulys Chacin will start Opening Day for the Padres

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Jhoulys Chacin will start on Opening Day, April 3 against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. It will be Chacin’s second Opening Day start, the other coming in 2013 with the Rockies against the Brewers. He’ll be the fifth different Padres pitcher in as many years to start on Opening Day.

Chacin, 29, inked a one-year, $1.75 million contract with the Padres in December. The right-hander spent the 2016 season with the Braves and Angels, compiling an aggregate 4.81 ERA with a 119/55 K/BB ratio in 144 innings.

Lin notes that Chacin will be followed in the rotation by Clayton Richard and Jered Weaver. It will be an interesting rotation, to say the least, as it will arguably be the worst in baseball.