According to multiple reports, that expectation has been nearly fulfilled, as Rakuten has agreed to a one-year contract with Takashi Saito, pending a physical...
"We want him to perform well and become a symbol of Tohoku’s recovery, and we expect him to pass his Major League experience on to our young players," commented Rakuten team president Yozo Tachibana.
Saito will earn a base salary of $350k, but can receive up to $1.5 million if he reaches certain performance landmarks.
The 42-year-old's return to Japan is a home-coming in more ways than one. Not only is he returning to his home country, but the Golden Eagles play their home games in the town of Sendai, where Saito grew up. The entire Tohoku region was devastated by the 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami, which is what Tachibana's above-mentioned "recovery" is in reference to.
Saito had seven successful MLB seasons, spending time with the Dodgers, Red Sox, Braves, Brewers, and Diamondbacks, and only once amassing an ERA above 3.00 in a season. Leg injuries derailed his last two seasons, limiting Saito to just 38⅓ innings in that span.
In all, Saito posted a career 2.34 ERA and 10.7 K/9 rate in 338 innings while racking up 84 saves.