INDIANAPOLIS – Jason Rogers may soon be leaving the Pirates organization to play in Japan, though, a contract has not yet been officially signed.
A first baseman/designated hitter with Triple-A Indianapolis, Rogers is in negotiations with the Hanshin Tigers of the Central League. Multiple Japanese news outlets have reported Rogers will sign with the club to fill an immediate need.
Rogers was in the Indianapolis lineup for Wednesday’s game, going 4-for-5 with a home run, but the exact date of his departure from the organization, if at all, is unclear.
“We’re in talks, but there’s no full agreement,” Rogers said. “Just keeping my options open. … I guess it comes from the Pirates, just exploring to see what is available. If nothing is going to happen for me getting called up, I’m just keeping options open for next year. Because after this year I’m a free agent and I’m trying to have options open.”
However, when asked if he could potentially sign with Hanshin and immediately leave, Rogers said that was possible. The news reports from Japanese outlets have Rogers signing and immediately joining Hanshin.
“If it comes available and stuff happens, yeah, it could be next week,” Rogers said.
Indianapolis manager Andy Barkett had not heard anything about Rogers signing with a Japanese team and had no comment on the matter.
According to a report from Sanspo, a Japanese newspaper, Hanshin was looking to “acquire a right-handed bat with pop that can also play some first,” which pretty aptly summarizes the scouting report on Rogers.
Rogers has a slash line of .278/.354/.419 in 68 games with Indianapolis this season. He has nine home runs and 34 RBI. He’s played 31 games as the designated hitter and 37 at first base.
The pending departure would bring an end to the disappointing 2015 trade that brought Rogers to the Pirates from the Brewers in exchange for outfielder Keon Broxton, who is hitting .251 with 13 home runs this season in the major leagues.
Rogers’ departure might create an opening for the promotion of Altoona first baseman Edwin Espinal, who has a slash line of .284/.329/.463 in Double-A this season. Espinal has played all but one of 55 games at first base. That would then create room for Will Craig to move up to Altoona.
The move makes sense from the perspective of Rogers, who doesn’t have many avenues to reach the major leagues with the Pirates’ organization, barring several injuries. He played quite a bit at third base last season, but has only played first base this season.
Scouts for Japanese teams have been attending games in Indianapolis and followed the team on recent road trips, for several weeks.