|Okajima a Red Sox for the long-term||02.24.09 at 4:30 pm ET|
Last September, left-handed reliever Hideki Okajima locked in his $1.75 million option for the 2009 season by reaching an appearances threshold. That salary could have been automatically triggered by either 65 games pitched in 2008 or 115 combined appearances in 2007 and 2008. Though Okajima had 64 appearances last year, he made his 115th career regular season appearance as a Sox last Aug. 15, thereby assuring a third season as a Red Sox.
However, the ramifications of that option reach even further. Okajima, who was a bargain at $1.25 million in both 2007 and 2008, would have become a free-agent following last season had the option a) not become guaranteed and b) been declined by the Sox. But once the option became guaranteed, the Sox assured that Okajima would be under team control for years to come should they wish to keep him.
Unlike some Japanese players who have clauses that make them free agents upon the expiration of their first MLB contract, Okajima will become arbitration eligible while remaining under Red Sox team control when his contract concludes following this season, according to an MLB source. As such, the Sox can retain him through six years of major-league service time. So long as the Sox continue to renew his contract, and barring a stint in the minors, the 33-year-old would remain with the club through the 2012 season without reaching free agency.
Okajima is 6-4 with a 2.40 ERA and 123 strikeouts in 131 innings over his two years in Boston. He has six saves in that time.
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