It appears that the Japanese posting procedures have been finalized. They will grandfather in the posting procedure that was in place last year for this coming season and then next year move to a system where the Japanese team only gets a percentage of a players contract, with that percentage rising the lower the contract. With the salary restrictions placed on Shohei Otani’s potential contract this year because of international salary cap ceilings, the rules for a percentage of the contract would not provide enough money to the Nippon Ham Fighters to give them any incentive to post Otani. So below are the top possible postings and the free agents that may be coming from Japan next year.
Shohei Otani (RHP/OFer) - enough has been written about him. The Babe Ruth of Japan will get the maximum posting of $20 million from at least a dozen major league teams who would like to negotiate with him. His contract will be cheap so if you don’t get him you don’t lose any money. Myworld’s concern with Otani is his injury history. That may restrict his ability to be a two way player. He is currently rehabbing from ankle surgery.
Dennis Sarfate (RHP) - After breaking the Japanese save record in a season and being the first reliever to save over 50 games the Softbank Hawks signed the 36 year old to an extension. A number of major league teams have expressed an interest in signing Sarfate. To do that the Hawks would have to release him or post him. Sarfate has redefined his career in Japan with a split fingered fastball. In the major leagues he would probably not be a closer but a set up man.
Kazuhisa Makita (RHP) - At 33 years of age he has asked to be posted. The Seibu Lions have agreed to post him. He will not break the bank with his posting. A set up pitcher in Japan he relies on a funky delivery to achieve success. Those types of pitchers have early success in the major leagues but their effectiveness wanes as hitters get more accustomed to their delivery. Because of his time in the NPB he will not be subject to international salary cap restrictions.
Hideaki Wakui (RHP) - A pitcher for the Chibba Lotte Marines, did not pick one of his better years in which to declare free agency. His best seasons were from 2007 to 2010. Last year he was 5-11, 3.99. He is an arm and at 31 does have some years left. He is not overpowering, relying on an assortment of pitches and a high left leg kick to add some funk to his delivery. Teams who need arms for the bullpen will look at signing him.
Yoshihisa Hirano (RHP) - The closer for the Orix Buffaloes is 33. His fastball hits the mid-90s and he has a forkball. His most likely role in the major leagues will be as a set up pitcher. His strikeout numbers have not been overwhelming since 2014. He began his career as a starting pitcher but after three years converted to relief, where he was first the set-up man and after 2012 converted to closer for the Buffaloes. Teams who need arms to fill their bullpen will look at signing him.
Two other international free agents, Shinya Tsuruoka and Shota Ono are catchers who will probably stay in Japan. Tsuruoka is an older catcher (36) who is not even a starter for his NPB team (Softbank Hawks). Ono is younger and catches for Otani. Teams could try to attract Otani by signing Ono as his personal catcher if they feel there is a connection. Ono does not have much of a bat with a .216 career average.