Major league teams can begin making their pitches on Tuesday to left-hander Yusei Kikuchi of the Nippon Professional Baseball league.
His team, the Saitama Seibu Lions, opened the process for teams to bid on the Japanese pitcher on Monday. Since Kikuchi isn’t eligible for international free agency until 2020, he needed the team to approve a move to the major leagues.
“I have only gratitude to Seibu for approving the posting,” said Kikuchi, according to the Japan Times. “I want to focus on what I can do in order to get a solid outcome.”
It could be a win-win situation for both the 27-year-old Kikuchi and the Japanese team.
The pitcher will be allowed to play in the majors earlier than expected, and the Lions will reap a financial bounty. According to MLB.com, the Lions will receive compensation based on the guaranteed value of his major league contract in the amount of 20 percent of the first $25 million, plus 17.5 percent of the next $25 million and then 15 percent of any amount over $50 million.
The Lions also could receive an additional fee based on bonuses or other options Kikuchi might earn.
Kikuchi has been with the Lions since 2011, when he was 20. In his eight years in the Japanese league, he has a record of 73-46 with a 2.77 ERA. He’s thrown 1,010 2/3 innings over 158 games (153 starts) and has struck out 903 batters.
He went to the same high school as Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels, but unlike Ohtani, he is a pitcher only.
His fastball averages 92 to 94 miles per hour but can reach as high as 98.
According to MLB.com, he does not figure to be a No. 1 pitcher on a team but rather one who falls in the middle of a rotation.
MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported that teams expected to pursue Kikuchi include the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants and Seattle Mariners. A number of East Coast teams have sent scouts to watch him pitch as well, including the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies.
Teams have until Jan. 2 to negotiate with Kikuchi and his agent, Scott Boras.
—Field Level Media