The posting system between Major League Baseball and Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball remains in flux, creating some question as to whether vaunted right-hander/slugger Shohei Otani will ultimately be made available to big league clubs this offseason. Otani isn’t the only person whose shot at a Major League opportunity is in question, however; as the Japan Times reports, submarine righty Kazuhisa Makita could also be posted for MLB clubs if a new agreement between MLB and NPB can be reached.
“We plan to give him the green light,” said Lions executive Haruhiko Suzuki when asked about honoring Makita’s request to be posted for MLB clubs. “We are moving in that direction. He has a strong desire (to move to the majors through the posting system). We haven’t heard the outcome (of the negotiations). We will wait for that, then submit paperwork.”
Unlike Otani, the 32-year-old Makita is not a young star headed into his prime. Rather, he’s long been a successful starter and reliever. Makita is still subject to the posting system, though, because he did not begin his pro career in Japan until the age of 26, thus leaving him shy of the requisite nine years of service time to be considered a free agent under Japan’s rules. However, under MLB’s collective bargaining agreement, Makita would be considered a professional. In other words: he’s subject to the posting system but not to international bonus pools. If he is indeed posted, he’ll be able to sign for any amount with whichever teams meet his posting amount.
It’s far from clear what type of posting figure/release fee would’ve been placed on Makita by the Lions anyhow. The 32-year-old was the Pacific League Rookie of the Year back in 2011, the report notes, 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. Makita’s submarine delivery could well hold appeal to a wide swath of clubs looking to give opponents a different look in the middle and late innings of a game.
However, Makita also generates an abnormally low number of strikeouts for a pitcher with his success, and some big league clubs will likely harbor trepidation as a result. Makita has averaged just five punchouts per nine innings over the course of his pro career in Japan, though to his credit he’s averaged just two walks per nine innings. In 147 1/3 innings over the past two seasons, Makita has issued just 19 unintentional walks, but he’s also hit 13 batters in that time.
Batted-ball data for NPB isn’t readily available, but a delivery as extreme as that of Makita figures to lend itself to weak contact — especially from right-handed opponents. His blend of a low strikeout rate with strong walk rates and plenty of weak contact isn’t all that dissimilar from free-agent righty Brandon Kintzler or from Marlins sidearm righty Brad Ziegler, so there’s certainly precedent for that skill set playing well in the Majors in today’s game. Whether he’s ultimately made available to big league clubs is entirely dependent on negotiations between MLB and NPB, but he’d be another name to watch for bullpen-hungry teams in free agency this winter.