Right-hander Tomoyuki Sugano has decided to pass on the international opt-out clause in his contract, and will remain with the Yomiuri Giants for at least one more season. Sugano told Yahoo Japan and other media outlets that his goal was to help the Giants win a championship in 2022.
Sugano was one of the more intriguing names of last winter’s free agent market, after the Giants posted the righty. The Blue Jays and Padres each made formal contract offers to Sugano and at least four other teams (the Rangers, Mets, Red Sox, and San Francisco Giants) also had some level of interest. However, a deal couldn’t be reached before the end of the 30-day posting window, with Sugano feeling that he was limited by both that short timeframe and the slow-moving nature of the first pandemic-influenced offseason.
The Yomiuri team ended up re-signing Sugano to a new four-year deal worth $40MM, though Sugano was given the opportunity to opt out after every year of that contract to pursue another shot at signing with a Major League team. Sugano would’ve been a full-fledged free agent, no longer constrained by the MLB/NPB posting system, and he was already old enough and with the prerequisite experience to not be subject to the international signing pools.
Long one of the best pitchers in Japanese baseball, Sugano is coming off a down year by his high standards, an injury-shortened season that limited him to 115 2/3 innings. He was still quite effective when he did pitch, posting a 3.16 ERA, 22.25% strikeout rate, and a 5.61% walk rate to help the Giants reach the Central League Climax Series, where they fell to the eventual Japan Series champion Tokyo Yakult Swallows.
Sugano turned 32 in October, and has now been set back by injuries in two of the last three seasons, even though his overall numbers have still been strong. These factors alone might not have stopped Sugano in a normal offseason, but with the lockout now putting everything on hold, it isn’t surprising that Sugano chose to remain in a familiar environment. If he felt things were too rushed within the limits of a 30-day posting window, Sugano certainly wouldn’t have liked the rush that will come following the end of the transactions freeze, when over 200 other free agents will also be battling for contracts before Opening Day.