Wladimir Balentien has 51 home runs and a chance to break the single-season Japanese home run record, numbers that are making headlines on both sides of the Pacific.
But the Tokyo Yakult Swallows do not have to worry about losing the 29-year-old outfielder to the major-leagues any time soon. Balentien’s three-year contract with Yakult does not include an opt-out clause, Sportsnet has learned.
Balentien is hitting .339/.461/.827 in 99 games for the Swallows and has reached the 30-home run plateau for the third time in as many seasons since arriving in Japan.
Three players share the current record of 55 home runs: Alex Cabrera (2002), Tuffy Rhodes (2001) and Sadaharu Oh (1964). Balentien has 32 games remaining to tie and break the mark.
Balentien played for the Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds from 2007-09. The Curacao native hit 15 home runs in 559 MLB plate appearances over the course of his three MLB seasons, posting a .655 OPS.
Balentien agreed to a three-year, $7.5 million contract extension with the Swallows last December. The deal covers the 2014-16 seasons.