The Padres have emerged as the favorite to sign Japanese right-hander Kazuhisa Makita, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter). The 33-year-old Makita, a submarine reliever, is on his way to San Diego for a physical, according to a report from Yahoo Japan.
At the time Shohei Ohtani was posted for MLB clubs, it was announced that Makita, too, would be posted for teams by year’s end, though details on his posting were never announced to the public. It’s not clear how many teams placed bids on Makita, but it’s clear that the Padres matched whatever release fee was set by the Seibu Lions and have agreed to a deal with the intriguing veteran right-hander.
Makita was the Pacific League Rookie of the Year back in 2011, and he owns an excellent 2.83 ERA in 921 1/3 career innings. After moving to the bullpen full time in 2016, he’s posted a minuscule 1.91 ERA in nearly 150 innings. However, Makita also generates an abnormally low number of strikeouts for a pitcher with his success, averaging just five punchouts per nine innings over the course of his pro career in Japan. To his credit, he’s done a masterful job of limiting walks, issuing just 19 unintentional free passes over his past 147 1/3 innings, albeit with 13 hit batters in that time as well.
That said, Makita would hardly be the only reliever in baseball who thrives on weak contact and heavy ground-ball rates despite an abundance of missed bats. Brad Ziegler, another sidearm specialist, has made a career out of that skill set and took home a hefty two-year contract last offseason as a result. Brandon Kintzler throws from a conventional arm angle but stands out as another reliever that has risen to relative prominence despite a lack of strikeouts.