Yomiuri Giants RHP Shun Yamaguchi Posted for MLB Pursuit:
In what was only a little over a week ago, Japanese 1B/OF Yoshitomo Tsutsugo of the Yokohama DeNA BayStars in the NPB- Nippon Professional Baseball- announced that he was going to be posted to be pursued by each team in the MLB.
Also occurring on Monday, a second player from the NPB, a 32-year old right-handed pitcher named Shun Yamaguchi was also officially posted by the Yomiuri Giants to pursue a shot at an MLB career. Like Tsutsugo, teams will now have 30 days to negotiate a contract with the RHP, although the official deadline has not yet been announced.
Yamaguchi’s posting is also notable because the first player that has gone through the posting system with the Yomiuri Giants. Remember: when notable Giants slugger Hideki Matsui signed with the Yankees in 2002, he did so as an unrestricted free agent in the NPB.
Let’s take a look at the posting system, Yamaguchi’s career stats, and see if he could be a potential fit with the Yankees:
The NPB (Japan) to MLB (USA) Posting System:
The posting system for a player under contract with a Japanese professional baseball team first starts with the request of a player to be posted, which the NPB team can either reject the proposal and retain their rights, or allow to make available during the next posting period. Currently, this period runs from November 1st to February 1st.
If allowed to pursuit posting, the NPB will alert the MLB and the ballplayer will have 30 days to negotiate with teams from the MLB on a contract. If a contract is reached, then the MLB team will pay the NBP team that the player is coming from a transfer fee, relative to the amount of money that the new contract was signed for.
The current system has the following fees, associated with the type of contract and guaranteed money of the contract. It is split into the following system:
If a player signs a Minor League Contract (MiLB), then 25% of the contract value is sent as the transfer fee from the signing MLB team to the former NPB team.
If a player signs an Major League Contract (MLB), then the first $25 million includes an additional 20% transfer fee, or up to $5 million.
If higher than a $25 million contract, the next $25 million (up to $50 million) will include a 17.5% transfer fee, or up to $4.375 million.
And, if above a total contract value is above $50 million, any amount over includes an additional 15% transfer fee, with no hard cap.
This would not apply to any player going from the MLB to the NPB, or any player in the NPB who has accumulated 9 or more years of service time.
The Stats of Shun Yamaguchi:
Last season, the then 31-year old Yamaguchi led NPB’s Central League in wins (15), strikeouts (188), and winning percentage (0.789), alongside an ERA of 2.91, and WHIP of 1.159 over 170 innings pitched.
Over his 14 year career in the NPB- the first 11 with the Yokohama DeNA Baystars and final 3 with the Yomiuri Giants- he has pitched in just about every role imaginable: middle reliever, closer, and now as a starter. A large part of this is probably due to the inconsistencies he has shown over the course of his career, which seems to run on a pattern of on-and-off good or bad.
Check here for his career stats, thanks to Baseball Reference.
What Should We Expect of Yamaguchi?
It’s projected in the MLB, that he would be expected to become a “back-of-the-rotation starter or a bullpen guy” according to Jim Allen, who had the following to say in his profile report on Yamaguchi:
“He appears to have value as either a back-of-the-rotation starter or a bullpen guy, largely because he has not established his current level of success and because of the incident.”
In 2017, Yamaguchi drunkenly shoved a security guard and injured his pitching hand as reported by Kyodo News, but Allen continued saying:
“The incident aside, Yamaguchi is pleasant and straightforward with the media, and I have no reason to doubt he is anything but a good teammate. At the time of the incident, he was coming off poor performances and reportedly the pressure of playing for the Giants got the best of him.”
I’d highly recommend reading Allen’s profile (above) on Yamaguchi, as he does more in-depth about his background and 2019 pitch make-up.
What Do I Think?
Yamaguchi, to me, seems like a pitcher the Yankees could take a flier-on to give more bullpen depth and to have another option for a spot-starter, but I don’t think they will aggressively look after him, ultimately meaning that he won’t be playing in the Bronx in 2020.
Now 32, Yamaguchi is definitely hovering around the peak of his career, which has been far to up-and-down in the relatively easier NPB for me to think a team of the Yankees caliber would want to take the risk. More proven players in the NPB, like Yusei Kikuchi who signed with the Mariners last year, had a very tough first go around in the MLB (6-11 record, 5.46 ERA).
He could be a fine pitcher, and could put up great numbers as a continuation of what he just did in the NPB last season, but I think that’s hoping for a little bit too much. Chances are that if he makes an MLB roster he’ll end up playing on a team that currently has more lingering postseason wishes (maybe the Cincinnati Reds, maybe the Oakland Athletics).