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


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