The buzzword of the year belongs to none other than Munetaka Murakami, record holder for most single-season home runs by a Japan-born player.
In 2022, the 22-year-old back-to-back MVP third baseman of the Yakult Swallows hit 56 long balls, which included home runs in an NPB record five straight plate appearances. Over the course of the season, media and fans played with his name, calling him “Mura Kamisama” or “Mura-god.” The buzzword was named the trendiest of 2022 (baseball or not!) at an awards ceremony on December 6. Later that week, Murakami signed a three-year deal (through the 2025 season) with the Swallows worth ¥1.8 billion, after which it is expected the team will post him for a chance to play in the majors.
Speaking of players going to the majors, SoftBank Hawks longtime ace Kodai Senga is reported to have signed a five-year, $75 million deal with the New York Mets. He also apparently has no-trade and opt-out clauses built into his deal. As an international free agent, Senga’s signing did not cost the Mets a posting fee. However, the signing of Orix Buffaloes’ outfielder Masataka Yoshida did the Boston Red Sox. Yoshida finalized his five-year, $80 million deal the day after he was formally posted. The Buffaloes will also receive a posting fee worth roughly 20% of the value of that contract.
There are two NPB players that are still looking for MLB homes in 2023. Right-handed pitcher Shintaro Fujinami of the Hanshin Tigers is rumored to have gotten some interest from the Red Sox and the Arizona Diamondbacks, though nothing has been finalized yet. He was posted earlier this month by the team. Silver-medalist Scott McGough, the closer for the Yakult Swallows these past two seasons (and a set-up man for two years before that) has been released by his team so he can pursue a return to the majors. He is 33 years old, though, but teams will be drawn to his 251 strikeouts in 232 2/3 innings of NPB work.
Finally, one of the hottest domestic free agents of the offseason, Nippon-Ham Fighters outfielder/DH Kensuke Kondoh, has signed a six-year deal with the Hawks. Nearly every Pacific League team was vying for his services in 2023 and beyond, but it was hard for any of them to match the ¥3.5 billion that the Hawks offered him. It looks like they are plenty serious about contending in 2023. Speaking of which, we’re almost through with 2022! We will be back one more time before the year is out, but allow us to wish you the warmest of season’s greetings now!