Kenshin Kawakami , who has spent the past 11 seasons as one of the top pitchers in Japan's Central League, is headed to the Atlanta Braves.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution , Kawakami, a 33-year-old right-hander has reached an agreement with the Braves and will fly to Atlanta for a physical Monday, two people familiar with the situation confirmed.
An announcement is expected Monday or Tuesday.
Kawakami is one of the two most high-profile free agents in Japan, where the 2004 Central League MVP has compiled a 112-72 record with a 3.22 ERA and 1,328 strikeouts in 11 seasons with the Chunichi Dragons.
Kawakami chose the Braves over the St. Louis Cardinals and Baltimore Orioles.
Kawakami was 9-5 with a 2.30 ERA and 112 strikeouts in 117-plus innings in 2008, when he pitched most of the season in a six-man rotation and missed several weeks with a back strain.
From 2004-06, he posted a 45-22 record while averaging 197 innings. He was 17-7 with a 3.32 ERA in 2004, and in '06 he went 17-7 with a 2.51 ERA and career-highs of 194 strikeouts and 215 innings.
The two-time Olympian and three-time Gold Glove recipient won the Sawamura Award as Japan's top pitcher in 2004.
He was also the Central League's rookie of the year in 1998.
According to the newspaper, Kawakami and agent Dan Evans were impressed by Atlanta general manager Fran Wren 's presentation at the December winter meetings, where he provided a detailed look at the Braves their history, and Atlanta with its significant Japanese population, of which the pitcher wasn't previously aware.
Wren and Braves president John Schuerholz began more than a year ago to step up their preparations for the pursuit of Japanese players, meeting with Atlanta's Japanese consulate to find out all they could about the Japanese presence in Georgia.
METS: Reached a preliminary agreement with Tim Redding on a $2.25 million, one-year contract. Redding's deal is subject to him passing a physical.