Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Lions slugger Hotaka Yamakawa signs new deal

Kyodo

Pacific League MVP Hotaka Yamakawa has signed a new contract with the Seibu Lions, the Saitama club said Wednesday.

The 27-year-old first baseman, who led Nippon Professional Baseball in home runs this year, will receive an estimated annual salary of ¥110 million ($973,000), nearly tripling the value of his previous deal.

“I’m happy. The team told me my season was almost perfect, and from my perspective, I’m very satisfied,” Yamakawa said.

In his first full season for the Lions’ top team, Yamakawa played all 143 games as the club clinched the PL pennant but failed to reach the Japan Series.

In addition to his NPB-best 47 home runs, the 27-year-old led the PL with 115 runs. He was second in the league in RBIs (124), walks (88) and slugging percentage (.590).

With fellow Best Nine representative Hideto Asamura departing for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in free agency, Yamakawa’s contribution to the Lions’ offense is set to take on even greater importance.

“With Asamura gone, I’ll be carrying more pressure. My goal (next season) is 50 home runs,” Yamakawa said.

Yamakawa, an Okinawa native, was honored by his hometown of Naha city with a civic award after winning MVP.

“As an Okinawan, it was a huge honor. It made me as happy as winning MVP,” he said.