The club announced Thursday it had signed the 30-year-old right-handed reliever from Japan to a two-year contract and thereby addressed one of its primary needs. Igarashi pitched 11 seasons with the Yakult Swallows of the Japanese Central League, serving as a reliever exclusively in 507 games.
The deal is reportedly worth $3 million, with Igarashi getting $1.25 million next season and $1.75 million in 2011. He can earn an additional $500,000 in performance bonuses over two years
"We've had an interest in Ryota for two years," Mets general manager Omar Minaya said in a statement Thursday. "He's got a power arm and an outstanding split-finger [fastball]."
The Mets' 2009 season ended with the setup role not clearly defined. Wagner had made two appearances in August after his return from surgery. Putz had made 29 before a need for surgery developed in early June. Otherwise, Jerry Manuel mixed and matched relievers -- Pedro Feliciano, Bobby Parnell, Brian Stokes, Sean Green, Takahashi -- with mixed results. Only Feliciano, the primary left-handed reliever, provided consistent results. And no one has been identified since the end of the season as the eighth-inning pitcher, as Putz was when he was acquired last December.
Igarashi produced a 3-2 record, three saves and a 3.19 ERA in 56 games in his most recent season. He allowed 42 hits and 20 walks and struck out 44 in 53 2/3 innings. After he recovered from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery in 2007, he pitched 44 games in 2008, producing a 2.47 ERA, 3-2 record and three saves in 43 2/3 innings. He established a career-best 37 saves in '04 and won a career-high 11 games in 2000. Igarashi pitched in 60 or more games from 2002-04.
His career numbers include a 47-29 record with 54 saves and a 3.25 ERA in 507 games. He struck out 630 in 570 innings, an average of 9.95 strikeouts per nine innings.
"I have known Isao O'Jimi [the Mets scout in Japan] since I was in high school," Igarashi said through an interpreter. "When I received the Mets' offer, there was no doubt in my mind that this was the team I wanted to go to and start my career in the United States. I am looking forward to playing in New York and pitching in the same bullpen as Francisco Rodriguez."
He will be the 10th Japanese-born player in Mets history. The others were: Takashi Kashiwada (1997), Hideo Nomo (1998), Masato Yoshii (1998-99), Satoru Komiyama (2002), Tsuyoshi Shinjo (2001, '03), Kazuhisa Ishii (2005), Shinjo Takatsu (2005), Kazuo Matsui (2004-06) and Takahashi last season.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.