Catcher Kenji Johjima and the Seattle Mariners agreed yesterday to a $16.5 million, three-year contract.

Johjima will be the first Japanese catcher to play in the major leagues. He visited Seattle Nov. 11-14 and met with Mariners executives. He also toured the city to assess its suitability for his family.

"He's going to sign with Seattle. They're announcing it today," agent Alan Nero said. "They favorably impressed him."

Nero said a news conference likely would take place today in Fukuoka, Japan.

Johjima's decision was first reported yesterday by The Seattle Times. His deal allows him to earn an additional $2.5 million in performance bonuses over the three seasons.

Seattle did not immediately confirm the agreement.

The Mariners' most famous Japanese player is all-star outfielder Ichiro Suzuki. He criticized the team this month in a Japanese newspaper for lacking leadership and direction.

An all-star for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, Johjima became a free agent on Nov. 8. He hit .309 with 24 homers and 57 RBI in 116 games last season before breaking his left leg. He has won seven straight Gold Gloves.

Seattle may now choose to deal catcher Yorvit Torrealba.

-- From News Services

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