Former Seattle Mariners catcher Kenji Johjima agreed to join the Hanshin Tigers of Japan’s Central League.
Johjima held talks with his former team, the Softbank Hawks of the Pacific League, but he opted instead to join the Tigers, signing a four-year deal worth $21 million.
“Hanshin was the first team to set up talks with me,” Johjima said. “I’ll do everything I can do to help the team win.”
He opted out of the final two seasons and $15.8 million of his contract with the Mariners last week, allowing him to finish his career in Japan.
The 33-year-old Johjima hit .268 in his four seasons with the Mariners, with 48 homers and 198 RBI in 462 games.
He holds the American League record for hits by a rookie catcher (147 in 2006). His 18 home runs in his first season tied the Mariners’ record for most home runs by a catcher.
Johjima slumped to .227 as part of Seattle’s 101-loss collapse in 2008 and hit just .247 in 71 games this past season, losing playing time to injuries and to the Mariners’ preference for rookie catcher Rob Johnson.
Astros hire Mills as manager
Brad Mills, 52, was hired to manage the Houston Astros after six seasons as Terry Francona’s bench coach in Boston.
Mills will manage in the majors for the first time, though he’s managed a total of 11 seasons in the minors, with affiliates for the Chicago Cubs (1987-92), Colorado Rockies (1993-96) and Los Angeles Dodgers (2002).
“One thing that I’m going to bring in is a freshness, being with a champion and bringing that freshness in,” Mills said. “It’s a fresh voice, it’s a new voice.”
General manager Ed Wade said Mills agreed to a two-year contract, with a team option for the third. The Astros made an offer to former Nationals manager Manny Acta over the weekend, but Acta took the Cleveland Indians’ job instead.
The Astros fired Cecil Cooper on Sept 21. Third-base coach Dave Clark served as interim manager for the final 13 games, and Houston finished 74-88. Wade said Clark will return as Houston’s third-base coach.
Mills was an infielder for the Montreal Expos from 1980 to 1983. He hit .256 with one home run in 106 career games.
Around the horn
Outfielder Gabe Kapler re-signed with the Tampa Bay Rays for one year. The 34-year-old Kapler played in 99 games this season, batting .239 with eight homers and 32 RBI. …
Jamie McCourt filed for divorce from Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and asked a judge to reinstate her as the team’s chief executive, signaling what could be a lengthy and nasty fight over the storied baseball franchise. Frank McCourt fired his wife as the team’s chief executive last week when the Dodgers were eliminated from the playoffs by the Philadelphia Phillies. …
The $845 million sale of the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field and other assets from the Tribune Co. to the Ricketts family was completed Tuesday, more than 21/2 years after the franchise was put on the market. The family of billionaire Joe Ricketts, the founder of Omaha, Neb.-based TD Ameritrade, takes a 95 percent controlling interest in the baseball franchise, its storied ballpark and 25 percent of Comcast Sportsnet. …
The Toronto Blue Jays took the interim tag off Paul Beeston’s title and appointed him president and CEO of the club and Rogers Centre for a three-year term. Beeston took over from Paul Godfrey on an interim basis in October 2008. Beeston originally said he didn’t want the job full-time.