A number of former major leaguers have signed with Japanese teams this offseason, but they pale in comparison to the star the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles may have lured to Sendai.
According to reports from Nikkan Sports, the Eagles have reached an agreement with veteran outfielder Andruw Jones on a one-year deal in the neighborhood of ¥300 million. An announcement is expected soon, pending the results of a physical.
In terms of star power, the 35-year-old Jones would represent the biggest signing by an NPB team in some while.
Jones mostly made his name by making spectacular plays in the Atlanta Braves outfield, where he was a Gold Glove winner from 1998-2007. His 24.1 defensive wins above replacement (defensive WAR), according to Baseball Reference, is tied with Hall of Famer George Davis as the 19th best all-time.
Jones is five-time All-Star with a career .254 batting average, 434 home runs, 1,289 RBIs and a 59.5 WAR over 17 seasons with the Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas Rangers, Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees.
He posted the best season of his career in 2005, hitting .263 with a .922 on-base plus slugging percentage while leading the majors with 51 homers and 128 RBIs. He finished second in the National League MVP voting to the St. Louis Cardinals’ Albert Pujols that season but was named the Major League Player of the Year by the Major League Baseball Players Association and won his only Silver Slugger Award.
Jones found little success after leaving the Braves following the 2008 season, never managing a WAR above 1.7 at any of his stops after putting up a 58.4 in 12 seasons with the Braves.
Jones heads to Japan on the heels of an unremarkable two-year stint with the Yankees, hitting .220 with 27 home runs and 67 RBIs in 171 games with the Bronx Bombers.
The Eagles could use the Jones of old. Rakuten hit an NPB-low 52 home runs last season, with Kazuo Matsui and Akihisa Makida leading the way with nine each. Makida and the recently-released Jose Fernandez were the only two Eagles to drive in more than 50 runs.
If all goes according to plan, Jones could take up residence somewhere in the middles of the Eagles’ lineup.