Reigning Pacific League home run king Tuffy Rhodes signed a two-year contract with the Yomiuri Giants carrying an annual salary of $5 million (about 543 million yen), officials of the Central League club said Thursday.

News photoKosuke Fukudome has re-signed with the Chunichi Dragons.

Rhodes, who was released by the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes earlier this month after talks on a multiyear deal apparently hit a snag, will be wearing uniform No. 20 with the Tokyo club as he did with the Buffaloes for the past eight seasons.

The 35-year-old left-handed slugger had hoped to re-sign with the Buffaloes, whom he played for through the 1996-2003 seasons, until the Pacific League club said it was not willing to offer any more than a single-year deal worth 440 million yen.

Rhodes captured the PL home run title for a third time with 51 homers this past season while batting .276 with 140 hits and 117 RBIs in 138 games. He claimed the PL RBI title twice and is also the co-holder of the single-season home-run record of 55.

Through the 2003 season, the Rhodes batted .289 with 288 homers for an all-time high for foreign players in Japan, while recording 1,187 hits and 824 RBIs over 1,081 games in Japan.

Fukudome hits it big

NAGOYA (Kyodo) Kosuke Fukudome earned a 78 million yen pay raise in re-signing a sixth-year contract with the Chunichi Dragons for 200 million yen, team officials said Thursday.

Fukudome, who won the batting title in the 2002 season, hit 34 homers, the most among Japanese players, in 2003 while batting .313 with 165 hits and 96 RBIs — both team highs — in 140 games. His 107 runs scored and on-base percentage of .401 were also the best in the Central League.

“I didn’t think I’d get here (the 200 million yen mark) this early in my career. I thank the club for evaluating me highly,” said the 26-year-old outfielder.

‘Wave signs Moore

KOBE (Kyodo) The Orix BlueWave acquired former Hanshin Tigers southpaw starter Trey Moore on a one-year deal worth 49 million yen, in addition to performance-based incentives, officials of the Pacific League team said Thursday.

Moore, known for his batting skills, hit .326 in 21 games with the Tigers this past season and had the Kobe-based club include a clause in the contract allowing him to earn extra bonuses for bunts and RBIs despite the league using the designated hitter rule.

The 31-year-old American joined the Tigers in 2002 and posted 10 wins against 11 losses in his first year in Japan before going 10-6 the following season.

Imaoka rewarded

OSAKA (Kyodo) The Hanshin Tigers on Thursday presented Makoto Imaoka, winner of the Central League batting title this past season, with a 230 million yen deal for next season in re-signing him for almost double the amount of his current salary.

Imaoka received a 110 million yen pay raise after batting .340 with 165 hits, 12 homers and 72 RBIs in 120 games as the leadoff man in 2003 despite missing the last few games due to a left shoulder injury.

Meanwhile, free agent southpaw Tsuyoshi Shimoyanagi has decided to play another season with the Tigers after failing to land a deal with a major league team, club officials said.

Boost for Shibahara

FUKUOKA (Kyodo) Two-time All-Star Hiroshi Shibahara received a 70 million yen pay raise in re-signing with the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks for next season in a deal worth an estimated 160 million yen, team officials said Thursday.

The 29-year-old outfielder opened the 2003 season in the minor leagues for the first time in his seven-year career because of an injury, but returned in late April and batted a career-high .333 with 142 hits and 53 RBIs in 112 games to contribute to the Hawks’ Japan Series championship.

Iwamura accepts cut

Injury-prone infielder Akinori Iwamura accepted a 20 million yen pay cut in re-signing a new deal with the Yakult Swallows for 110 million yen after the two sides met for a second round of negotiations on Thursday.

Iwamura failed to have officials of the Central League club agree that his right wrist injury, sustained in the 2003 season opener, was one that was incurred in the line of duty, but succeeded in having the Swallows better their first-round offer by 3 million yen.

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