INDIANAPOLIS — Jason Rogers is leaving the Pirates organization and has agreed to terms to play for the Hanshin Tigers in the Central League in Japan.
Rogers previously confirmed on Wednesday that he was in negotiations to play for Hanshin, but no contract had yet been finalized. And there was no timeline either: he might leave for Japan next year, or next week, Rogers said.
But one day later his future plans became clear. The clues were easy to put together before getting an official announcement.
First, Roger was scratched from the lineup about 20 minutes before first pitch. After the game, the 1980s song “Turning Japanese” was being played by Rogers’ teammates.
All that was needed was an official confirmation.
“Jason Rogers has agreed to terms with a team in Japan,” Indianapolis manager Andy Barkett announced in his office after Thursday’s 4-0 win over Durham. “At about 6:40 p.m. I got word to scratch him from the lineup. There was some communication that the deal was done and I needed to get him out of the lineup and he was no longer property of the Pittsburgh Pirates anymore.”
Rogers is hitting a slash line of .289/.362/.439 with nine home runs and 34 RBI in 253 at-bats this season with the Triple-A Indians. And he had one of his better games in what turned out to be his final time in the lineup: going 4-for-5 with a home run in Wednesday’s game.
There is no specific date for when Rogers will leave for Japan, as Hanshin and the Pirates have to finalize paperwork, a typical part of the process.
“I’m grateful for it,” Rogers said. “Opportunities like this don’t come easy and don’t come often. I’m going to try to take advantage of it by going there, doing well and hopefully staying there next year.”
While Rogers is leaving the organization mid-season, teammates and coaching staff seemed genuinely happy for their teammate, who will likely be getting a sizeable pay increase and be playing for one of the better teams in Japan.
Rogers likely didn’t have a path to the majors with the Pirates, barring numerous injuries. He was taken off the 40-man roster in the off-season after hitting a slash line of .263/.338/.371 last year, with six home runs and 40 RBI in 372 at-bats.
Pittsburgh acquired Rogers from the Brewers after the 2015 season in exchange for outfielder Keon Broxton, who is hitting .251 with 13 home runs and 32 RBI this year in the major leagues.
Rogers’ career with the Pirates never got on track after a sluggish 2016 season, which led to him being taken off the 40-man roster and facing a backlog of players in front of him. He had played quite a bit of third base with Indianapolis last year, but had yet to play there this season with Eric Wood and others being viewed as better options.
“It could have been a lot better, especially last year,” Rogers said. “Things didn’t go as I planned and I had a little setback. This year things got a little better and I got better mentally, and got back hitting like I wanted. Things didn’t work out like I wanted, but I’m still grateful for my time here.”
Barkett is disappointed to lose the power Rogers has shown at times, but realizes it’s the best move for the player teammates and coaches call “Panda.”
“I knew he was disappointed he was taken off the roster here,” Barkett said. “But we talked about this exact scenario happening. The fact it did happen makes me very proud. I hate to lose that offensive production on your team, but at the end of the day as a minor league manager, especially a Triple-A manager, our job is to get our guys to the next level and help them achieve their goals and dreams.”
Rogers’ departure will create cyclical effect that will likely cause two promotions, someone from Double-A Altoona to Indianapolis; and from High-A Bradenton to Altoona.
No official announcement on those moves has been made, but it’s likely those moves will surface on Friday.