Free agent catcher Ryoji Aikawa agreed Friday to join the Tokyo Yakult Swallows after he failed to receive an adequate offer from teams in the major leagues.
Yakult is thought to have offered the former Yokohama BayStars catcher a three-year deal worth ¥450 million, baseball sources said after the two sides met for the first time this offseason.
In the market for an everyday catcher, the Swallows expressed interest in the 32-year-old Aikawa soon after he filed for free agency in November and had been biding their time until he finally became available for talks.
“I wanted to pursue a career in the major leagues, but I told Yakult that it will be my next team. I appreciate that Yakult waited for me for a long time,” said Aikawa, who will be the first free-agent signing ever for the Central League club.
Aikawa is a .259 career hitter with 39 home runs and 231 RBIs in 10 seasons, all with Yokohama. He was a member of the bronze medal-winning Japanese baseball team at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Elsewhere, the Chiba Lotte Marines said they have acquired the services of infielders Chase Lambin and Gary Burnham.
Neither player has major league experience but both had tryouts in Lotte’s fall camp last year. Lambin, 29, will make ¥20 million while Burnham, 34, will earn ¥13 million after both tied up one-year deals.
Bobby Valentine’s team also said it has released infielder Jose Ortiz, right-hander Winston Abreu and left-hander Wu Si-yo.
Taguchi lands job
NEW YORK (Kyodo) The Chicago Cubs have signed outfielder So Taguchi to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, ESPN reported Thursday.
The 39-year-old Taguchi would earn $900,000 if he makes the team in spring training, the U.S.-based sports channel said in its online edition.
Taguchi was released by the Philadelphia Phillies in November after batting only .220 in 88 games last season, mostly as a pinch-hitter and defensive replacement. He did not appear in the World Series.
Mitsui fails to get bid
NEW YORK (Kyodo) The second auction for left-hander Koji Mitsui under the posting system ended without a single bidder Thursday, according to a Major League Baseball official.
Mitsui was hoping to make a move to the major leagues after spending eight seasons with the Seibu Lions, but there were no bids for the 35-year-old as in the first auction last month.
Mitsui is expected to discuss what to do next with his agent after returning from a training trip to Okinawa.
He went 1-1 with a 7.50 ERA in 23 relief appearances last year and has a 36-19 career record with a save and a 4.41 ERA.
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