Capitals

A's agree on $6.5M, 2-year contract with Nakajima

201212181709617965220-p2.jpeg

A's agree on $6.5M, 2-year contract with Nakajima

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane hopes he got another significant addition from the international market.

The A's finalized a $6.5 million, two-year contract with Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima on Tuesday, filling a void created by the departures of Cliff Pennington and Stephen Drew.

``There are some things when you're here in Oakland that just feel right. This one felt right,'' Beane said. ``The longer we went on, the more information we got we said let's take a chance on the unknown as opposed to going down the road of the known.''

This marks the second straight offseason that Beane has added a prominent international player, with the team having signed Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes to a $36 million, four-year deal last winter. Beane said there is much more information available about foreign players, making signing them less risky.

If Nakajima can have anywhere the success that Cespedes had as a rookie, the A's would be ecstatic. Cespedes was a major part of the team's surprising season, batting .292 with 23 homers and 82 RBIs to help lead Oakland to the AL West title and first playoff appearance since 2006.

The A's achieved that despite having the lowest payroll in baseball at $59.5 million and they didn't need to break the bank to sign Nakajima. The contract also includes a $5.5 million club option for 2015, but Oakland's top draft pick last year, high school shortstop Addison Russell, could be ready for the majors by then.

Nakajima, 30, is an eight-time All-Star in Japan and a three-time Gold Glove winner. He has a .302 career batting average with 162 homers in 11 seasons with the Pacific League's Seibu Lions. He has hit 20 or more homers in a season four times. He batted .311 with 29 doubles, 13 homers and 74 RBIs in 136 games for the Lions last season.

The A's have had interest in Nakajima for a few years and made their move to fill their most glaring hole.

``The more things we uncovered the longer we got into the winter, the more we realized this was the guy,'' Beane said. ``We were a little concerned early on the competition might make it challenging for us financially. But as pieces started laying down with other clubs and positions were filled, I think that helped us.''

Nakajima also has extensive international experience, having participated in both the 2008 Olympics and 2009 World Baseball Classic for Japan. He said he will not play in the upcoming WBC.

Beane said the A's also got strong reports on Nakajima's personality and his ability to fit into a major league clubhouse. Those skills were evident at his opening news conference that Nakajima began with a rehearsed opening statement in English that he said he spent all night preparing.

``Hi Oakland,'' he began. ``My name is Hiroyuki Nakajima but you can call me Hero. I'm honored to be here today and very thankful for everyone coming today. Thank you very much Mr. Beane.''

Later in Japanese, Nakajima said through an interpreter that Beane was ``extremely sexy and cool,'' one of his biggest adjustments will be the lack of bathtubs in the United State and said he wanted to learn the ``Bernie Lean'' dance that was so popular in Oakland last season.

Nakajima will get a $1.25 million signing bonus and base salaries of $2.25 million next year and $2.5 million in 2014. He can earn up to $1.3 million in performance bonuses next season. Whatever bonuses he earns will be added to his salary in 2014, when he can earn up to $600,000 in bonuses based on playing time. Nakajima could earn as much as $9.2 million his first two years.

There is also a $500,000 buyout if the A's don't exercise their option for 2015, and Nakajima will be eligible for free agency at the end of the deal. The contract also includes awards bonuses and various perks including an interpreter, flights to and from Japan and moving expenses.

Nakajima nearly came over to the majors last offseason after the New York Yankees bid $2.5 million for his rights. But Nakajima wanted to play every day so went to the Lions for one more season before becoming a free agent this winter.

``I'm very grateful having made that decision,'' he said through an interpreter. ``To be wearing an A's uniform right now, I'm just very excited.''

The A's got little offensive production at shortstop this year, when Pennington and Drew earned most of the playing time. Oakland's shortstops collectively batted .203 - second lowest in the majors - with 12 homers and 46 RBIs. The .272 on-base percentage from the team's shortstops was also lowest in the majors.

The A's dealt Pennington to Arizona in October in a three-team trade for outfielder Chris Young.

Drew, acquired in a midseason trade with the Diamondbacks, became a free agent when the A's declined a $10 million mutual option. He agreed to a $9.5 million, one-year deal with Boston this week, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because Drew needed to take a physical before the contract could be finalized.

Oakland also traded outfielder Collin Cowgill to the New York Mets for minor league third baseman Jefry Marte. Nakajima takes Cowgill's spot on the 40-man roster.

---

AP Sports Writers Ronald Blum and Howard Ulman contributed to this report.

Quick Links

3 stars of the game: Lightning strike 3 times in the first to burn Caps

usatsi_10635144.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

3 stars of the game: Lightning strike 3 times in the first to burn Caps

The first 20 minutes of Tuesday's game did not go well for Washington. The Tampa Bay Lightning scored three times in the opening frame and rode that lead all the way to the 4-2 win.

With the game heading towards a repeat of their blowout loss to Chicago, the Capitals rebounded in the second period to make a game of it as Lars Eller scored on a power play. Alex Ovechkin pulled Washington within one in the third period, but Nikita Kucherov slammed the door shut with a breakaway goal to extend the lead back to 2.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Brayden Point: Tampa Bay won this game in the first period when they took a 3-0 lead. Point scored two of those three goals. His first came at the 2:30 mark of the game. He retreated to the blue line on the power play believing Jay Beagle would clear the puck. When Beagle turned the puck over, he recognized it and immediately crashed the net, taking a Ryan Callahan pass in the slot and shooting it through the five-hole of Braden Holtby. On his second goal, Anton Stralman saw an opportunity on the Caps’ line change and passed the puck up to Point at the blue line. Point turned on the jets to get behind the defense and went five-hole again on Holtby to make the score 3-0.

2. Alex Ovechkin: After the first period, Washington slowly took this game over for much of the remaining 40 minutes. Ovechkin was a big part of that as he totaled an incredible 19 shot attempts for the game. Nine of those shots were on goal and he found the back of the net in the third period for career goal No. 594.

3. Tom Wilson: Through the first period, the Caps looked well on their way to a repeat of the 7-1 debacle they suffered Saturday in Chicago. They had nothing going in this game until Wilson drew a trip from Vladislav Namestnikov in the second period. Eller would score on the resulting power play giving Washington some much-needed life. The Namestnikov penalty was the 29th drawn penalty of the season for Wilson, which moves him into a tie with Matthew Tkachuk for the most drawn penalties in the NHL.

Quick Links

Wizards set to have Tim Frazier back against Cavs after nasal fracture surgery

usatsi_10601123.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Wizards set to have Tim Frazier back against Cavs after nasal fracture surgery

The All-Star break came at a good time for Wizards point guard Tim Frazier, who missed their last game before the week off due to nasal fracture surgery.

Frazier was back at the Wizards' practice on Tuesday night at Capital One Arena and expects to play on Thursday when the team returns to action on the road at the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"I feel good. I feel like I can go out there and help them compete," he said.

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

Frazier, 27, had surgery to repair his broken nose on Feb. 11 after he was knocked out of the previous night's game between the Wizards and Bulls. Frazier collided face-first with the knee of Bobby Portis and was immediately ushered to the locker room with blood streaming from his nose.

Following the procedure, Frazier had to battle through pain and breathing issues. He feels much better now and had no complications after participating in a full practice.

The challenge now is adjusting to a fitted mask he will have to wear to return to the court. Frazier has never had to wear a mask before in his basketball career.

"[Sweat] was one of the issues today, trying to keep it dry when I'm sweating underneath," he said.

"He looked good," head coach Scott Brooks said. "I thought he would be a little uncomfortable with it, but he seemed fine."

RELATED: WIZARDS HAVE BIG QUESTIONS TO ANSWER IN SECOND HALF

Frazier has been given advice from the Wizards' training staff, as well as teammate Bradley Beal who has had to wear a mask twice before in his career.

"Brad said that after a while you get used to it. Nobody wants to wear it for the rest of their careers besides Rip Hamilton," Frazier said.

Getting Frazier back is significant for the Wizards, who are already down a point guard with John Wall rehabbing from left knee surgery. Without Frazier against the Knicks on Wednesday, the Wizards had to use Beal and Otto Porter to bring the ball up at times. Now, with Tomas Satoransky and Frazier, they have a starting point guard and a backup who is used to playing the position.

They could have three point guards, as the Wizards continue to weigh their options in free agency. They have to add a player within the next two days to meet the league's minimum roster requirement. Most of the free agents they have evaluated have been point guards as they aim to compensate for Wall's absence, which could last well into the month of March.

RELATED: 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT HAS LOADED CLASS