Major League Baseball has announced that infielder Ryosuke Kikuchi (Hiroshima Carp) and right-handed pitcher Shun Yamaguchi (Yomiuri Giants) are each formally available through the posting process. Their posting periods opened this morning at 8am EST and will continue through 5pm EST on January 2nd.
Neither of these players is a surprise entrant to the marketplace at this point. In both cases, their respective Japanese teams had already assented to the players’ desires to explore a move to the majors. But today’s news does set the timeline for a deal to be struck.
It’s tough to say at this point how the market will develop for these two long-time Nippon Professional Baseball standouts. Countrymen Shogo Akiyama and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, both of whom are also attempting an MLB transition, are generally better-known players on this side of the Pacific. At least, it’s easier to think about precisely how those stars — a center fielder and lefty-swinging slugger — might fit into specific roster situations.
Kikuchi, 29, is a glove-first second baseman. He’s a contact and speed-oriented offensive player who doesn’t stand out in the NPB for his hitting ability. Over his career, Kikuchi carries an uninspiring .271/.315/.391 batting line at Japan’s highest level of play. While he’s regarded as a truly exceptional defender, there are quite a few second basemen available at the moment and it’s not a position at which teams have prioritized glovework of late. Interest in Kikuchi may depend upon whether MLB teams believe he’s capable of lining up at shortstop.
As for Yamaguchi, 32, it’s possible to imagine just about any team in the majors having interest. He has served alternatively as a late-inning reliever and quality starter. There have been some peaks and valleys over the years, but Yamaguchi was in good form last season, when he spun 170 innings of 2.91 ERA ball with 10.0 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9. Whether or not there’s serious interest in Yamaguchi as a true starter remains to be seen, but there’s little doubt he’d at least be an intriguing candidate to function in a “bulk” role or as a more traditional reliever.
Under the current posting system, a Major League team that signs one of these players would owe his former team 20 percent of the first $25MM guaranteed, plus 17.5 percent of the next $25MM, plus 15 percent of any dollars spent north of $50MM. That release fee is paid in addition to the guarantee itself. Contract options and performance incentives, once unlocked or triggered, are subject to a supplemental 15 percent release fee. For minor league deals, MLB clubs pay out 25 percent of the player’s signing bonus, and the player’s salary upon being added to the 25-man roster is subject to a supplemental posting fee.