Kevin Youkilis is heading to Japan to continue his baseball career. The veteran infielder has reportedly reached an agreement with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles for the 2014 season.
Alex Speier of WEEI passed along word of the deal:
According to an industry source, free agent Kevin Youkilis has reached an agreement to play for the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan in 2014. The 34-year-old spent the 2013 season playing for the Yankees, but injuries limited him to just 28 games in which he hit .219 with a .305 OBP and .343 slugging mark along with two homers.
The report states that Japanese outlet Nikkan Sports has also confirmed the signing.
FOX Sports' Jon Morosi confirmed the details:
If the team name sounds familiar, that's because the Golden Eagles feature coveted starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports there's still no word as to whether the club will post him for bids from Major League Baseball, though:
The signing comes as a minor surprise due to earlier reports about Youkilis' desires.
The longtime member of the Boston Red Sox, who also made stops with the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees, was looking to stay close to his California home. Jack Curry of the YES Network reported that's what he told the Yankees when they called looking to potentially re-sign him:
It's unclear if he wasn't able to get the right offer from a team in one of the MLB's western divisions or if he simply felt Japan was a perfect fit. Regardless, he'll travel across the Pacific Ocean for 2014 and see if he can rediscover his hitting stroke.
Youkilis has a career on-base percentage of .382, but that dropped all the way down to .305 in 28 games with the Yankees last season. It was the second straight year his on-base numbers took a major hit, which might have scared away MLB teams.
At 34, Youkilis will attempt to show he can still produce with Rakuten and then reevaluate his situation before 2015.