A’s 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.
Beane said the A’s 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 Hiro. 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 States and said he wanted to learn the “Bernie Lean” dance that was so popular in Oakland last season.
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.