Shane Mack was set to make a run at free agency after the 1994 season, and had baseball moved on as usual he was likely to make a killing. The 30-year old had been with the Twins for five seasons by then. During that time, Mack was one of the best players on a Twins team full of stars as evidenced by his .305/.375/.479 slash line and combined 130 OPS+. Unfortunately, the strike happened, and Mack took his skills to Japan.
It is hard to blame him in retrospect. In January 1995, when Mack signed with the Yomiuri Giants, it was unclear if there would even be a 1995 season in the States. While the owners and players were actively damaging business in MLB, things were booming for Japanese baseball. Mack signed a two-year contract for $8.1 million, about $1 million more per year than the highest offer from the Twins (an offer that was pulled off the table in negotiations between team and agent). The contract Mack did sign was, at the time, the richest in the history of Japanese baseball.
Mack was not the first major league player to seek greener pastures during the strike. Just a month earlier, Julio Franco signed a two-year deal with the Chiba Lotte Mariners for a reported $7 million. Franco, who spent the 1994 season with the White Sox, Franco negotiated an opt out clause, however, and was able to return to the U.S. to play for the Cleveland Indians for the 1996 season.
In February, the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks signed Kevin Mitchell for $4 million for 1995 plus an option year, making Mack’s tenure as the Japanese salary king just over a month long.
There isn’t much information about Mack’s time in Japan. It seems that his team played in front of a packed house at a 60,000 seat stadium. In the two years, Mack had a .284/.356/.463 slash line with 42 home runs. Notably, Mack shared the outfield with a 21-year-old Hideki Matsui and the team won the Japan Central League in 1996.
Mack returned to the States for the 1997 season. He finished his career with the Red Sox, A’s, and Royals over the course of the 1997 and 1998 seasons.