Giants rumors: Japan HR king Wladimir Balentien on the radar


Some in the organization have "mused about the possibility" of adding the slugging outfielder, but there's really no precedent for acquiring a player who's still under contract in Japan.

The San Francisco Giants have toyed with the idea of acquiring new Japan home run king Wladimir Balentien this offseason, reports Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Schulman's exact words are "mused about the possibility of acquiring," so it's not as though they're staying up nights trying to work something out, but its more than nothing. Much of the discussion is still theoretical at the moment, meaning GM Brian Sabean has not been a part of the musing, per Schulman.

A factor that could work in the Giants favor if they do decide to pursue Balentien is his close relationship with hitting coach Hensley Meulens, who has known the slugger for years and coached him on the Netherlands' World Baseball Classic team in the spring. Meulens said that he and Balentien text every day, and that the outfielder recently expressed interest in returning to Major League Baseball:

"He wants to come back," Meulens said. "That’s what he told me two or three weeks ago. His dream is to come back and play in the major-leagues...

The biggest obstacle between Balentien and an MLB renaissance is his contract with the Yakult Swallows, which runs through the 2015 season.

MLB and NPB have guidelines set up for the exchange of free agents -- see: posting fee -- and at times marginal players have their contracts sold to Japanese clubs, but the process of trading a potentially coveted player like Balentien back to the big leagues is uncharted territory. Meulens says that the club has talked about the situation, but that no one knows how to get around Balentien's contract.

Balentien, 29, broke Sadaharu Oh's long-standing single-season NPB home run record over the weekend, mashing his 56th and 57th big flies of the year on Sunday. The right-handed slugger, who never had much luck stateside, has destroyed opposing pitching in his three years with the Swallows, hitting 119 home runs in just over 350 games.

Before heading to East Asia, Balentien played parts of three seasons ('07-'09) with the Mariners and Reds, batting .221/.281/.374 with just 15 home runs in 170 games.

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