The Hiroshima Carp of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball announced this week their intention to allow second baseman Ryosuke Kikuchi to pursue an opportunity in Major League Baseball via the posting system, the Japan Times reports.
The 29-year-old Kikuchi doesn’t carry eye-popping offensive totals throughout his career. He’s a lifetime .271/.315/.391 hitter, including .261/.313/.406 in 619 plate appearances in 2019. He walked at a 6.6 percent clip this past season and struck out in 16.4 percent of his plate appearances, which is roughly in line with the solid contact numbers he’s posted throughout his career.
Where Kikuchi shines, however, is with the glove. He’s regarded as one of Japan’s best defensive players and has won a Golden Glove honor in each of the past seven years. There’s no shortage of highlights available on YouTube, and fans of the World Baseball Classic may recall some standout plays from the 2017 tournament (as well as an opposite-field, game-tying home run against Team USA’s Nate Jones).
Late in September, Will Hoefer of Sports Info Solutions profiled Kikuchi while looking at some NPB players who might try to make the jump to MLB this winter, noting that Kikuchi led all NPB second baseman with 20 Defensive Runs Saved in 2018-19. Kikuchi is only listed at 5’7″ and 152 pounds, but Simon notes that he’s a plus runner, which helps him take advantage of the aforementioned contact skills.
Whether Kikuchi’s defensive prowess will garner the attention of big league teams remains largely an unknown at this point. The offseason market for second basemen already has plenty of serviceable options in free agency, as Howie Kendrick, Brian Dozier, Starlin Castro, Jonathan Schoop, Ben Zobrist, Jason Kipnis, Eric Sogard, Brock Holt and Wilmer Flores are among the many veterans available. The trade market, too, figures to have a few options, including Jonathan Villar.
Under the current iteration of the posting system, the Carp can post Kikuchi anytime between Nov. 1 and Dec. 5. The old blind bidding and set release fee systems are no longer in place, having given way to a new system that entitles a player’s former club to a release fee that is determined based on the size of the contract he signs in Major League Baseball. That posting fee is equal to 20 percent of a contract’s first $25MM, plus an additional 17.5 percent of any guaranteed money from $25-50MM and finally another 15 percent for any dollars over $50MM. With regard to minor league contracts, the posted player’s former club would receive a release fee equal to 25 percent of the signing bonus (plus a supplemental release fee if the player is added to the active roster and receives a Major League salary).
The Carp have yet to announce the specific date on which Kikuchi will be posted. He’s the second NPB player known to be up for posting this winter, joining Yokohama DeNa BayStars slugger Yoshitomo Tsutsugo. Seibu Lions center fielder Shogo Akiyama, meanwhile, is seeking a Major League opportunity as well but is not subject to the posting system, as he has more than nine years of service time in NPB. He’s a pure free agent who can sign with any team.