Takashi Saito 斎藤 隆, has reportedly signed with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles on a one-year deal for next season. The contract is good for $350,000 with performance bonuses worth up to $1.5 million. The 42-year old pitcher will return to his native hometown of Sendai. Saito also played college baseball at Tohoku Fukushi University.
Saito left the Yokohama BayStars when he signed with the Dodgers in 2006 and made his MLB debut in Dodger Blue on April 9, 2006. He pitched in Los Angeles for three seasons, and he had his best year for the Dodgers in 2007 when he earned 39 saves and finished with a 1.40 ERA. Saito represented the Dodgers at the All-Star game that year. The right-hander went on to pitch for the Red Sox, Braves, Brewers, and the Diamondbacks. Saito’s career ERA is 2.34 with 84 saves, 400 strikeouts, and a 10.7 K/9 rate over seven successful Major League seasons and 338 innings of work. The Eagles have already signed former Major Leaguers Andruw Jones (who was arrested on Christmas day for allegedly battering his wife) and Casey McGehee this offseason.
Saito’s return to the Tohoku region of Japan is symbolic as well. Tohoku was hit hard by the earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
Rakuten president Yozo Tachibana had this to say about Saito’s return to Japan:
“We hope he does well with us to inspire the Tohoku regions. We’re counting on him to help the younger players by passing on his experience from the majors.”