Eagles' Tanaka signs big 3-yr deal but could head to majors after 2013

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SENDAI, Dec. 22 (17:05) Kyodo

Rakuten ace Masahiro Tanaka told the Eagles he wants to play in
the major leagues in the near future as the All-Star right-hander
signed off on a three-year, 1.2 billion yen extension Saturday.

And the team, it appears, is willing to oblige.

"I did tell them it's what I want to do in the future," said
Tanaka, the 2011 winner of the Sawamura Award, the Japanese
equivalent of the Cy Young. "I was out with an injury at one point,
but it was nice of them to still appreciate what I did this season."

The 24-year-old Tanaka, who went 10-4 with a 1.87 ERA despite
back trouble, received an annual raise of 80 million yen, taking his
base salary to 400 million yen. The contract also includes
performance bonuses.

The 1.88-meter Tanaka, a member of Japan's 2009 World Baseball
Classic team, also led the Pacific League in strikeouts with 169 and
won a Golden Glove for the second straight year.

The deal will take Tanaka into the 2015 season, the earliest he
will be eligible for overseas free agency. The Eagles, however, would
let Tanaka go early through the posting system and will discuss the
issue with the pitcher each offseason.

Rakuten posted Hisashi Iwakuma two years ago, when the Oakland
Athletics won the bid. Iwakuma and Oakland, though, failed to strike
a deal during the allotted negotiating window.

"We're in no position to stop someone from pursuing his dreams
and ambitions," Rakuten official Yasuyuki Kato said. "After each
season, we'll sit down and see how he feels about it."

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