Like some divine gift sent down from the heavens on an otherwise grey and cloudy Seattle morning, Kenji Johjima has decided to opt out of the final two years remaining on his ungodly, ill-advised three-year contract and return home to Japan where he will likely finish his playing career. Release the doves!
By opting out of the deal, the Mariners will be spared on dual accounts.
One, they won’t be forced to release Johjima and sacrifice millions of dollars owed to him.
Two, they won’t have to waste a roster spot on Johjima while he festers on the team’s bench. Between Rob Johnson and Adam Moore, the team was committed to two young catchers and one unproductive veteran. With the vet out of the equation, Johnson and Moore can now compete for the starting backstop role.
This is arguably the biggest move of the offseason, no matter who the M’s sign, no matter who they trade for, no matter what young players they develop. By clearing Johjima’s contract off the books, the team retains $16 million that they were to scheduled to pay the 33-year-old over the next two seasons.
Since Johima’s rookie season in 2006, his productivity has continued to drop on an annual basis. He has had trouble communicating with the pitching staff, and as a result his defense has been suspect, at best.
While Johjima’s bat was at one time his greatest asset, his offensive production struggled over the past two-and-a-half seasons, and in 2009 he lost considerable playing time to Johnson, who began to assume the starter’s role.
Watching Johjima leave may be bittersweet to some, but any sound of mind Mariners fan realizes that this move was in the best interests of all parties. Johjima now has the opportunity to resurrect his career, and the M’s have a chance to wash their hands of a $24 million mistake.