Sanspo is reporting that Toritani has signed a monster contract (for Japan) with the Tigers: a 5-year deal worth ¥2-billion (around US$16.9 million). This means he will be with the organization at least through his 38th birthday, and likely for the remainder of his career. Management, among others, look forward to being able to retire his number at the end of what could be quite the illustrious career. Numbers may not compare favorably (two different leagues and in Ripken’s case, eras) but the shortstop has a chance to mean to the Tigers what Derek Jeter meant to the Yankees and what Cal Ripken meant to the Orioles. Both had long, productive careers with one organization, and were outstanding leaders and fan favourites. Toritani and Ripken are among the first names that come to mind when thinking of iron men. Currently, Toritani has played in 1466 straight games, which is still well short of Ripken’s 2632, but still very impressive. Should Tori play all regular season games the remainder of his contract, he would end his age 38 season at 2186 games. Either way, it is great to have him back with the organization!
On another note, I stumbled across his Facebook page, which I had no idea existed until Tigers Pride posted a French translation to Facebook. Here is an English translation, along with the original statement. Nothing too exciting, but worth a read.
Happy New Year!
At the end of last season, I decided to test the international free agent market. I thought long and hard about all the possibilities, and yesterday decided to return to the Hanshin Tigers.
I know my decision came kind of late and I caused a lot of fans and others some grief.
This season I will play with all my might and hope to share the joy of winning the pennant and Nippon Series with all the fans. I look forward to your continued support this year.
Right now I am in Okinawa doing voluntary training with Chiba Lotte’s Iguchi, as I have done every year. I’m doing all I can to get in shape for spring training!
In other news, the Toronto Blue Jays have re-signed 2B/SS Munenori Kawasaki to a minor-league contract for 2015. It appears he will be guaranteed $120,000 if he stays in the minors all season, but the split contract also means an increase to $700,000 if he gets called up from the farm team. Kawasaki is a huge fan favorite in Toronto and is also well-liked by his teammates. While he is not quite Takashi Toritani, the Blue Jays could end up with a decent Japanese 2B at a reasonable price after all.
Not only that, but the Jays are also apparently one of three teams showing interest in 41-year old legend Ichiro Suzuki. The Orioles and Marlins are also in the running. Should Ichiro join the Jays, it would be like a dream come true for Kawasaki, who lists Ichiro as his hero. The two played together briefly in Seattle in 2012 before Ichiro moved to the Yankees in a trade. Kawasaki was released at season’s end and joined the Blue Jays at the start of the 2013 season.