One Man’s Junk…

For over a decade now, Japan has required manufacturers, retailers and citizens to adhere to its Home Appliances Recycling Law that mandates that large appliances such as air conditioners, televisions, washing machines/dryers and refrigerators must be recycled and not simply thrown in the trash.  Consumers are responsible for the transfer of used appliances to one of 46 recycle sites throughout the country and must pay fees to the original retailers which in turn pays a fee to the manufacturers who then must either recycle the appliances into future products or strive to eliminate the footprint of the product.  Each appliance carries an allocated recycling fee of between $20 and $40 US dollars for the consumer, while the retailer and manufacturer incur process costs.  Recycling actually occurs in Japan and an entire industry of disassembly workers was developed.  As my old boss, The Duke, used to say, “Good jobs, at good wages.”

Major League Baseball has its own form of recycling: the signing of another team’s free agents who are over 35.  Not a practice without costs, the 2011 season has produced its share of suspect reclamation projects:

‘11 Team ‘10 Team Player (Age) Stats Salary/Yr
SF SD Miguel Tejada (37) .218  1 HR $6.5M
AZ COL Melvin Mora (39) .262  0 HR $2M
TB CWS Manny Ramirez (39) PED allegations/RTD $2M
MILW CWS Mark Kotsay (35) .256  0 HR $800K
WAS SD Matt Stairs (43) .100   11Ks  0 rbi $850K
CIN SF Edgar Renteria (35) .228   20Ks  18 hits $2.1M
TOR COL Octavio Dotel (37) 11 inngs 6.17 ERA $3.5M
OAK MINN Brian Fuentes (35) 1-5   4.35 ERA $10.5M/2yr

However, sometimes recycling can be beneficial.  Adam Kennedy, Henry Blanco, and Miguel Batista have been serviceable,

‘11 Team ‘10 Team Player (Age) Stats
SEA WAS Adam Kennedy (35) .270   4 HRs  4 SBs
AZ NYM Henry Blanco (39) Lmtd play but 4 of 6 hits HRs
STL WAS Miguel Batista (40) 2-1  1.69 ERA

while players like: Lance Berkman, Orlando Cabrera, Barton Colon, Scott Downs, Kyle Farnsworth and the timeless Arthur Rhodes all have been valuable acquisitions.

‘11 Team ‘10 Team Player (Age) Stats
CLE CIN Orlando Cabrera (36) .274  24 Rbi
STL NYY Lance Berkman (35) .349 (2nd in NL)  11 HRs
NYY CWS Bartolo Colon (37) 2-2  3.16  48Ks in 51 inngs
LAA TOR Scott Downs (35) 1-1  0.84 ERA
TB ATL Kyle Farnsworth (35) 9 Saves  1.76 ERA
TEX CIN Arthur Rhodes (41) 2-2  3.97 ERA  1 Save

It is interesting to note that aside from Berkman and Cabrera, the hitters from the recycling class of 2011 have been sub-par, while the pitchers by and large have continued to hold their value.  Assuming that we are past the quarter-pole of the 2011 MLB season and that the players noted above continue to perform in line with their existing arc, it appears that ballplayer recycling has about a 33% success rate.  Some players from the 2011 free agent class failed to make teams and others landed on the DL with too many old parts.  Which brings us full cycle… right back to where we started…in Japan.

With Japan’s robust recycling system, what about ballplayers who spent years in the Japanese League and then came West in their 30s?  The 2011 free agent signings of Hisanori Takahashi and Takashi Saito have been less than stellar.  The Angels signed 36 year old, Takahashi for $3.8M.  Takahashi is 1-0 with a 4.74 era and a dreadful 1.68 whip.  Saito (41) who signed for $1.75M remains on the DL after pitching 2 innings this year.  Saito’s ‘end of useful life’ signing is reminiscent of quite a few Hiroshi-Come-Latelys.

  • the Orioles post-prime acquisition of injury-plagued Koji Uehara (34 at signing) in 2009;
  • Takhito Nomura (33) and his 8.86 ERA in one year in Milwaukee;
  • Norihiro Nakamura (32) who hit .128 with the Dodgers;
  • Masumi Kuwata (39) who went on the DL at 0-1 with 9.43 ERA in 2007 in Pittsburgh; and
  • Kazuo Fukumori (32) who landed a two year, $3M deal with the Rangers and pitched for about five minutes in the Majors recording a 20.25 ERA.

Maybe the imports are not quite what we thought they were.  And clearly, although the Japanese recycling system is overachieving in its span of implementation and return on investment, the lion’s share of baseball players who sign with Major League teams after a lengthy careers in Japan belong in the scrap heap.

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