The Oakland A’s agreed to terms with shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima (he-ro-YU-kee nah-kah-GEE-mah) on a two-year contract through the 2014 season with a club option for 2015, the club announced today.
Oakland also announced today it has traded outfielder Collin Cowgill to the New York Mets in exchange for minor league third baseman Jefry Marte. Nakajima will assume Cowgill’s spot on the A’s current 40-man roster.
Nakajima, 30, is an eight-time Nippon Professional Baseball All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner with a .302 career batting average in 11 seasons with the Seibu Lions. The 5-11, 198-pound Japanese star batted .311 with 29 doubles, 13 home runs and 74 RBI in 136 games for the Lions last season, earning All-Star, Gold Glove and “Best Nine” recognition.
He has hit 20 or more home runs in four different seasons and has driven in 90 or more runs on four separate occasions. He has also hit .300 or higher six times and stolen 20 or more bases three times in his career. Since joining Seibu in 2002, the Itami, Hyogo native has collected 248 doubles, 20 triples, 162 home runs, 738 RBI and 141 stolen bases, and posted .371 on-base and .472 slugging percentages.
Perhaps Nakajima’s finest season to date was 2008, when he led Seibu to the Nippon championship by batting .331 with 32 doubles, 21 home runs, 81 RBI, 25 stolen bases and a league-best .410 on-base percentage. He finished second by .0007 points in the league batting race.
The A’s new shortstop also has extensive international experience, having participated in both the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2009 World Baseball Classic for the Japanese national team.
He played in all nine games of the 2008 Olympics, hitting .296 and driving in five runs on a Japan club that lost to South Korea in the semi-finals and bowed to the United States in the bronze medal game. Despite missing two games to illness, Nakajima played a key role in Japan winning the 2009 World Baseball Classic. He batted .364 with six RBI and a .516 on-base percentage, particularly shining in Japan’s 14-2 win over South Korea (3-for-4, two doubles, two RBI) and 9-4 victory against the U.S. in the semi-finals (2-for-5, two doubles, two RBI).
Nakajima was named to the NPB All-Star team in 2004 and 2006 through 2012. He also earned Gold Glove awards in 2008, 2011 and 2012, and was a Best Nine Award winner in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012.
Cowgill, originally acquired by the A’s Dec. 9, 2011 in a five-player trade with Arizona, batted .269 with one home run and nine RBI in 38 games over three stints with Oakland this past season. He also hit .254 with four homers and 37 RBI in 61 games with Triple-A Sacramento in 2012.
Marte, 21, was named to the Eastern League’s 2012 Mid-Season All-Star Team with Double-A Binghamton, where he batted .251 (116-for-462) with 20 doubles, three triples, nine home runs and 58 RBI in 129 games. In 2011, the 6-1, 187-pound Dominican played for the World Team in the XM Futures Game and also starred in the Arizona Fall League after that season, hitting .333 with four home runs and 18 RBI in 22 games for Peoria.