The Pacific League’s Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles have reached an agreement in principle with 31-year-old first baseman Gaby Sanchez, managing director Hiroshi Abei revealed Wednesday.
The one-year deal is for an estimated $2.5 million (roughly ¥290 million) with additional performance-based incentives. The deal is expected to be finalized in the coming days.
Sanchez has a .254 career batting average over seven big league seasons with the Marlins and Pirates. He has hit 61 home runs and driven in 266 runs. Sanchez finished fourth in the National League’s rookie of the year balloting in 2010, when he drove in a career-high 85 runs for the Marlins, and was an all-star the following season.
“We’d like to have him bat in the middle of the order,” said Abei, whose club last year failed to replace the 2013 production of Casey McGehee and finished last after winning the Japan Series the year before.
McGehee scored 78 runs and drove in 93 for the Eagles in his lone year in Japan. He returned to the big leagues this year, played 160 games for the Miami Marlins and won the National League’s Comeback Player of the Year Award. None of the players the Eagles tried to replace him with panned out.
Kevin Youkilis played in just 21 games for Rakuten last season, Zach Lutz 15 and Nick Evans five. Outfielder-first baseman John Bowker proved the most durable of the new guys after signing in May. The former Yomiuri Giant played in 65 games, but batted just .248 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs.