A’s Reach Agreement with SS Hiroyuki Nakajima: Two Years $6.5 Million

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Small-market teams have to seek small-market solutions to fill voids

Oakland A’s reached into the international market to find a starting shortstop, signing Hiroyuki Nakajima to a two-year $6.5 million deal.

Nakajima will take over for Cliff Pennington and Stephen Drew.

Drew recently signed with the Boston Red Sox, and Oakland dealt Pennington to Arizona in October in a three-team trade for outfielder Chris Young.

Small-market teams have to seek small-market solutions and A’s General Manager Billy Beane seems to have done just that with Nakajima.

Drew’s contract with Boston is for one year at $9.5 million, in comparison to Nakajima’s two-year deal.

“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, 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 home runs in a season four times.

The New York Yankees bid $2.5 million for his rights last year in an effort to bring him to New York.

Nakajima decided to return to Japan for another season and become a free-agent this year.

“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.”

Oakland signed Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes to a $36 million, four-year deal last winter.

Cespedes played a major role in the A’s 2012 season, batting .292 with 23 homers and 82 RBIs to help lead Oakland to the AL West title.

Beane said that there is more information available about foreign players, making signing them less risky, and in many cases more cost-effective.

To make room for Nakajima, the A’s traded Collin Cowgill to the New York Mets for minor league third baseman Jefry Marte.

Nakajima takes Cowgill’s spot on the 40-man roster.