Matsui signs 1-year deal with Oakland A’s

MONSTER ACQUISITION — Hideki Matsui, who played for the Los Angeles Angels last season, will stay in California and the AL West for 2011, having agreed to terms with the Oakland Athletics. Kyodo file photo

OAKLAND, Calif. (Kyodo) — Free agent slugger Hideki Matsui and the Oakland Athletics have agreed to a one-year contract, the club announced Dec. 14.

The Athletics introduced Matsui at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum during a press conference attended by a swarm of U.S. and mostly Japanese media.

“I’m very happy to join a team that has a lot of history and tradition,” said Matsui through an interpreter. “The A’s have been a very tough opponent for me for many years, so it will be nice to be on their side now and see things from their perspective.”

Detailed terms of the contract were not disclosed, but The Associated Press reported the deal is worth $4.25 million.

The 36-year-old will play for his third major league team and provide the offensive power the club had been searching for this off-season.

Matsui said the Athletics strongly pursued him during the offseason and said it was an important factor in his decision to join the team.

“That’s something any player can appreciate, to be needed by the team,” he said.

The Athletics have been searching for a big bat in the middle of the order after hitting just 109 home runs this past season, the second fewest in the American League. Matsui replaces designated hitter Jack Cust, who signed with the Seattle Mariners last week.

“This is a player that we’ve played against for a number of years. Obviously, we’ve admired his skills,” said General Manager Billy Beane.

Matsui spent last season with the Los Angeles Angels after signing a one-year deal worth $6 million. He batted .274 with 21 home runs and 84 RBIs in 2010 as the team’s designated hitter and occasional outfielder.

Beane said he was drawn to Matsui’s offensive versatility that the team had recently lacked.

“He can hit the long ball and play the small game as well,” he said.

The Angels declined to offer salary arbitration to Matsui this winter and he became a free agent for the second time since leaving the New York Yankees as the 2009 World Series MVP.

The agreement comes just a week after the Athletics and Japan’s Rakuten Eagles pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma failed to reach a deal during the 30-day negotiating period.

Matsui is the third Japanese-born player to join the Athletics after Keiichi Yabu and Akinori Iwamura.

Matsui, who spent seven years with the Yankees, will enter his ninth season in the major leagues. He has batted .290 with 161 home runs and 681 RBIs in his career.

Uehara, O’s agree to extension

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Koji Uehara will return to the Baltimore Orioles at least for next season, the 35-year-old pitcher said Dec. 9.

“I’m leaving everything up to my agent so I don’t know the details, but I hope it all works out,” Uehara told Kyodo News when asked about re-signing with Baltimore.

The Baltimore Sun reported Dec. 8 that Uehara and the Orioles have agreed to an incentive-laced, one-year contract with a one-year option for 2012.

Uehara is coming off a season in which he became Baltimore’s closer, picking up 13 saves with a 2.86 ERA in 43 appearances. He struck out 55 in 44 innings.

Uehara signed a two-year deal with the Orioles in 2009 after becoming a free agent with the Yomiuri Giants.

Iwakuma looking forward

SENDAI (Kyodo) — After talks with the Oakland Athletics for a move to the big leagues via the posting system ended in failure, right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma appeared surprisingly upbeat.

“I feel like I have cleared my head more than I feel disappointed. I really want to make next year the season that I can help Rakuten win a championship,” Iwakuma said at a press conference Dec. 8.

Iwakuma’s case is the first since the posting system was established in 1998 that a team which won the exclusive negotiating rights failed to sign the player.

“It made me wonder if they really wanted me in the first place,” said Iwakuma.

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