Wladimir Balentien, Lastings Milledge get multiyear deals in Japan


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.

Blue Jays sign Danny Espinosa to minors deal

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Free agent middle infielder Danny Espinosa signed a minor-league deal with the Blue Jays, the team announced Saturday. The deal includes an invite to spring training, where Espinosa is scheduled for his first split-squad game against the Orioles this afternoon.

Espinosa, 30, was inked to another minor-league deal with the Yankees in January. The veteran infielder was competing for an infield job until the team picked up second baseman Neil Walker on a one-year, $4 million deal last Monday. Prior to his release, he slashed .160/.276/.320 with one home run through his first 12 games with the Yankees this spring. He didn’t fare much better in the majors last year, either, batting a cumulative .173/.245/.278 with six home runs and a .523 OPS in 295 PA for the Mariners and Rays.

Blue Jays starting shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is still dealing with a bone spur in his heel and has officially been ruled out for Opening Day, which could clear a path for Espinosa to claim a starting role in Toronto. Of course, he won’t be the only candidate under consideration — Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Diaz are still in the mix as well, though no final decision appears to be made just yet.