The Phillies will reportedly take a run at left-handed Japanese starting pitcher Yusei Kikuchi as he looks to sign with an MLB team.
The Angels made waves last offseason when they signed pitching/hitting phenom Shohei Otani. Another Japanese pitcher, Yusei Kikuchi, is prepared to come over to MLB this offseason. He could be wearing a Phillies jersey when the 2019 season starts.
Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reported Tuesday night that Philadelphia is expected to pursue Kikuchi once he is posted by his Japanese club, the Seibu Lions. The 27-year-old will then be able to sign with whatever team he wants. Kikuchi is represented by Scott Boras, who the club is already very familiar with and will talk to a lot this offseason.
Posting is the process of Japanese teams allowing their players with less than nine years of professional experience to sign with a major-league team. Japanese clubs receive a fee potentially up to $20 million to release the player once they strike a deal to come to North America. If Kikuchi was under 25 years old, teams would be limited to their international bonus pool for signing bonuses, but that is not the case here.
General manager Matt Klentak stated at the general manager meetings that he would like to add a left-handed starter to the rotation to help balance it out. They could trade for Arizona’s Robby Ray or Seattle’s James Paxton or look at free agents like Dallas Keuchel or Patrick Corbin. Now Kikuchi is in the mix.
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The Phils are reportedly already familiar with Kikuchi, seeing him pitch in Japan. Per Salisbury, scouts see Kikuchi as a No. 3 or 4 starter. A previous report from MLB.com’s Jon Morosi had some scouts rating Kikuchi as high as a No. 2 starter. Either way, he would likely slot in behind Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta.
In eight seasons as a professional, including part of one season in Australia as a 20-year-old, Kikuchi has a 2.81 ERA, 1.177 WHIP, and 2.43 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 163 games. In 2017, he had a 1.97 ERA and 0.911 WHIP in 26 starts. This year, he was 14-4 in 23 starts with a 3.08 ERA and 1.033 WHIP.
Philadelphia has a limited history with Japanese players.
Tadahito and So Taguchi both were with the club in 2008. Tadahito was not eligible for the playoff roster as he was signed after Sept. 1, but So was left off the postseason roster despite being eligible.
If the Phils do feel this strongly about Kikuchi, they have the money to sign him and pay his posting fee. Boras will certainly do the best he can to drive up the price for the lefty.