NEW YORK (AP) — Kevin Youkilis is leaving the major leagues after an injury plagued season and heading to Japan.
The three-time All-Star has agreed to a one-year contract with the Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan’s Pacific League.
“They made it very apparent right from the start they were quite interested in Kevin being there,” agent Joe Bick said Friday.
A 34-year-old first baseman and third baseman, Youkilis will have a $4 million base salary and can earn $1 million in bonuses — including some based on walks, a provision not allowed in major league contracts.
After nine seasons with the Boston Red Sox, Youkilis signed a $12 million, one-year deal with the New York Yankees. But his back started to bother him in mid-April, and an epidural injection didn’t improve a lumbar spine sprain.
Sidelined from April 27 to May 31, he went back on the DL on June 13, had surgery a week later to repair a herniated disk and didn’t return. Youkilis hit just .219 with two homers and eight RBIs over 28 games and 105 at-bats.
“There’s no reason to believe he’s anything less than 100 percent,” Bick said. “Workouts are going normally.”
Youkilis has a .281 average in 10 big league seasons with 150 homers and 618 RBIs, and he earned a World Series ring with the 2007 Red Sox.
At Rakuten, Youkilis may become teammates with star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, who went 24-0 last season, While Tanaka wants to join the major leagues, Rakuten is reluctant to make him available in the new posting season, and the 25-year-old right-hander can’t leave as a free agent until after the 2015 season.
“We were talking with eight or nine other clubs over here,” Bick said. “In the final analysis, he said the right thing for my family and me is to go do this. It will be a wonderful life experience.”