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.

Report: Rangers sign Jeff Mathis to two-year deal

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The Rangers have signed catcher Jeff Mathis to a two-year contract, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The deal is pending a physical.

Mathis turns 36 years old at the end of March and has a career .564 OPS across 14 seasons, but he is well-regarded for his defense and ability to handle a pitching staff.

The arrival of Mathis could mean the Rangers are moving on from Robinson Chirinos behind the plate, as he is now a free agent. The Rangers could go after another catcher to complement Mathis or just have Isiah Kiner-Falefa back up Mathis. Though Kiner-Falefa mostly played elsewhere, including three spots across the infield, he did rack up over 300 defensive innings behind the plate in 2018.