OAKLAND The next shortstop of the A's shed the jacket of his three-piece suit, pulled on a white No. 3 jersey with help from general manager Billy Beane and, smiling confidently, introduced himself without the aid of the interpreter to his left.
"Hi, Oakland," he said. "My name is Hiroyuki Nakajima. But you can call me Hiro."
The A's announced Tuesday they agreed to a two-year contract with the Japanese free agent, filling a void left by the departure of free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew. The deal includes a team option for 2015. The first two years of the deal reportedly are worth $6.5 million.
It's the second major international signing by the A's in as many years, following Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes last offseason.
Nakajima, 30, had been on the team's radar for a couple of years and should be an offensive upgrade at a position where the A's didn't receive much production last season, Beane said.
If his charismatic introductory news conference Tuesday was any indication, Nakajima also won't have any trouble fitting into the A's fun-loving clubhouse. Asked why he chose to sign with the A's, he replied through interpreter Hiroo Nishi: "Billy Beane is extremely sexy and cool. So that's definitely one of the reasons."
"I heard a lot about the team chemistry, for example last year's postseason appearance, I heard it was a lot to do with the team chemistry, youth, energy," Nakajima added. "I'm extremely fascinated and excited to be part of that kind of team chemistry."
Nakajima is a career .302 hitter in 11 seasons with the Seibu Lions in Japan, and he hit .311 with 13 home runs and 74 RBIs in 2012. An eight-time Nippon Professional Baseball All-Star, Nakajima had four seasons of 20 or more homers and at least 90 RBIs.
Beane described Nakajima as a good hitter and steady defender who has played other infield positions in Japan but wanted a full-time shortstop job. That's something the A's were able to offer after Drew signed with the Boston Red Sox on Monday and Cliff Pennington was traded to Arizona in October for outfielder Chris Young.
The A's made the playoffs last season despite their shortstops hitting a combined .203 with 12 homers and 46 RBIs.
"I think the more we got into this thing, beyond the scouting reports, the more we felt like this was a great fit for us," Beane said. "We were pretty excited to have him available to us, certainly, at this point. And I think the thing that helped us a lot (was) shortstop's where his heart is, and we've got that opportunity."
A year ago, the New York Yankees bid a reported $2 million for the rights to negotiate with Nakajima, but they failed to reached a deal. Nakajima said Tuesday the biggest factor was the probability he wouldn't be an everyday player in New York, though he considered signing and treating it as a transitional year into major league baseball.
Nakajima sounds confident his ability will transfer. He has some international playing experience, representing Japan in the 2008 Olympics and 2009 World Baseball Classic, but he said his main exposure to U.S. baseball came from watching highlight reels in Japan.
"I haven't really experienced anything yet," Nakajima said. "It's important for me to feel it. It's just kind of a step-by-step process. But I am very confident with my ability and that I will succeed in major league baseball."
To create room for Nakajima on the 40-man roster, the A's on Tuesday traded outfielder Collin Cowgill to the New York Mets for minor league infielder Jefry Marte. Cowgill hit .269 in 38 games for Oakland in 2012 after arriving in a trade with Arizona last winter.
The deal with Nakajima addresses arguably the most glaring need for the A's and Beane, who said soon after the team was eliminated from the playoffs that he didn't anticipate making many offseason moves.
"If we had to go in tomorrow, I think we'd feel pretty good about our club," Beane said Tuesday.
Beane said Nakajima was a popular teammate in Japan and seems eager to tackle the cultural shift. The shortstop said he speaks only "a little" English, but he was determined to deliver his opening comments Tuesday in English.
"Even in my dreams, I was practicing," Nakajima said.
He had prepared a short sign-off as well, flashing knowledge of the quirky customs of last season's A's.
"I will do my best for the team," Nakajima said in English as the news conference ended. "But I also want to Bernie dance with Oakland."