The Yomiuri Giants of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball have formally posted right-hander Tomoyuki Sugano for Major League teams. His 30-day posting period will begin tomorrow morning at 8am and run through Jan. 7 at 5pm ET, tweets MLB.com’s Jon Morosi.
Sugano, 31, is one of the most prominent pitchers in Japan. A two-time winner of the Sawamura Award — Japan’s Cy Young equivalent — he’s viewed as one of the top talents on the market behind Trevor Bauer, who is still in a class of his own among free-agent hurlers.
After a down season (by his lofty standards) in which he posted a 3.89 ERA in 2019, Sugano rebounded in 2020 with 137 1/3 innings of 1.97 ERA ball, averaging 8.6 K/9 against 1.6 BB/9 along the way. Overall, dating back to the 2015 season, Sugano has thrown more than 1000 innings with a 2.19 ERA while averaging better than eight strikeouts and fewer than two walks per nine frames.
Some fans may remember Sugano from a strong showing in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. The right-hander shined in a strong outing against Team USA, allowing just an unearned run with six strikeouts and one walk over six innings and eliciting high praise from skipper Jim Leyland.
“I can’t tell you, for me, tonight, how impressed I was with their pitcher,” Leyland said at the time (link via MLB.com’s Joe Trezza). “I mean, I thought he was really good. Located on the ball on the outside corners, fastball. Threw 3-0 sliders. That’s pretty impressive.” Leyland plainly called Sugano a “big league pitcher” after that game. (Those interested can check out all 81 of Sugano’s pitches from that game in this YouTube clip.)
Sugano’s fastball averages 92-93 mph and, like his curveball, boasts a strong spin rate. Sports Info Solution’s Will Hoefer took a look at him last October, calling him at least a No. 4 starter in the big leagues, and that was after an injury-hindered campaign as opposed to the strong 2020 showing Sugano just authored. ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel also labels him a likely fourth starter, noting that he’d have a chance at three years with an annual value in excess of $10MM in a normal offseason but projecting a slightly more measured two-year, $24MM deal due to the sport’s revenue losses. Sugano would’ve been included on MLBTR’s own list of the game’s top 50 free agents had it been known for certain that he’d be posted at the time of publishing.
Major League teams will have the next 30 days to negotiate with Sugano, who is exempt from international bonus pools and free to sign a contract of any length and for any amount. In addition to the money paid to Sugano on his contract, the team that signs him will also owe a release fee to the Yomiuri Giants. That fee is equal to 20 percent of the contract’s first $25MM, plus 17.5 percent of the contract’s next $25MM in value, plus an additional 15 percent of any money guaranteed thereafter.