SEATTLE – Catcher Kenji Jojima and the Seattle Mariners agreed Monday to a $16.5 million, three-year contract.

Jojima will be the first Japanese catcher to play in the major leagues. He visited Seattle Nov. 11-14 and met with Mariners executives. He also toured the city to assess its suitability for his family.

“This was a unique opportunity for us,” general manager Bill Bavasi said. “We had a chance to acquire offense at a premium position and we went after it aggressively.”

Jojima’s deal allows him to earn an additional $2.5 million in performance bonuses over the three seasons.

The Mariners’ most famous Japanese player is All-Star outfielder Ichiro Suzuki. He criticized the team this month in a Japanese newspaper for lacking leadership and direction.

An All-Star for the Fukoka Softbank Hawks, Jojima became a free agent on Nov. 8 after hitting .309 with 24 homers and 57 RBIs in 116 games in a season cut short by a broken left leg. He has seven straight Gold Gloves.

Seattle may now choose to deal Yorvit Torrealba.

AP-ES-11-21-05 2007EST

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.