Season’s Greetings! We here at JapanBall hope all of you are resting well and experiencing peace and joy during this holiday season. We’ll keep this one nice and short but will share a bit of NPB news with you before letting you go ring in the new year!
We have already announced the signings of Orix Buffaloes’ left fielder Masataka Yoshida (Boston Red Sox) and SoftBank Hawks’ right-handed pitcher Kodai Senga (New York Mets)… but there has been one other NPB star who has also received a deal with a major league team. Scott McGough, closer for the Yakult Swallows, signed a two-year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks worth $6.25 million, with a mutual option for 2025 worth $4 million. He says he had the time of his life in Tokyo, and is very thankful for the fans and his teammates.
One more pitcher is allegedly days from reaching a deal with an MLB club. According to agent Scott Boras, there are four or five clubs talking to him about acquiring Hanshin Tigers flamethrower Shintaro Fujinami. The 28-year-old righty has the raw talent to be an ace but has struggled with the mental side of the game (which has affected his control, among other things) in recent years. Still, two of the teams rumored to be interested in him are the Diamondbacks and the Red Sox.
Two other pitchers have already expressed an interest in shopping their talents around MLB next offseason, as well. Nippon-Ham Fighters ace Naoyuki Uwasawa and Saitama Seibu Lions ace Kona Takahashi have both asked their teams to post them after the 2023 season. We shall see if that happens.
In the meantime, the players are starting to request more freedom from the owners and teams. There was a meeting held this past week in which it was revealed that NPB players would like to obtain free agent status (both domestic and international) after just six years of service, which would reduce the requirement by 1 and 3 years, respectively. They were also pleased with NPB’s first “active player draft” (similar to the Rule 5 Draft in MLB) that took place in early December. They would like to see such player movement happen even during the season, but with the players themselves able to declare themselves eligible (and willing) to move.
Well, everyone, 2022 was certainly a year for the ages in NPB. With competitive baseball in 2023 kicking off early thanks to the World Baseball Classic, surely you are as excited as we are for the year to come!