Could another Japanese phenom make it to the majors this offseason and spark a frenzy of free agent pursuit?
The answer is not clear, but at least one report has opened a small window for Roki Sasaki to join the major leagues in the near future.
According to a report from Yahoo JapanSasaki, the 22-year-old pitching superstar who may be Japan's most promising pitching superstar since Shohei Ohtani, has asked his Pacific League team to post him by Friday's deadline.
However, reports state that Chiba Lotte Marines is unlikely to accept Sasaki's request.
If the Marines and Sasaki wait a few years, they'll both end up with higher paychecks.
Sasaki is not eligible to become a major league free agent because he is not yet 25 years old and has not played in the NPB for at least six years.
Ohtani joined the MLB early because his contract with the Nippon-Ham Fighters had a clause that allowed him to leave the team whenever he wanted, and he was transferred to the Angels at the age of 23 (for just $2.3 million).
Los Angeles Times recently reported Mr. Sasaki's agreement may have similar clauses, he said.
If Sasaki were to leave Japan this offseason, he would be leaving a lot of money on the table.
Since Sasaki is ineligible as a free agent, he will face international bonus restrictions that limit spending (on all international free agents), but the team will start with a bonus pool of just $4.75 million to distribute.
Similar to Ohtani after the 2017 season, Sasaki would be a potential superstar acquired relatively cheaply.
Ohtani agreed to a 10-year, $700 million contract with the Dodgers on Saturday.
Many American audiences know Sasaki from his 162 mph fastball and devastating splitter for the gold-medal winning Japanese team at the World Baseball Classic. It became so.
In three seasons in the Pacific League, Sasaki pitched 303 2/3 innings with a 1.90 ERA and 395 strikeouts.
He is already a legend with the legendary nickname “Monster of the Reiwa Era”, which alludes to the current era of the Japanese calendar.
Sasaki's posting may seem unlikely, but it would be a monumental opportunity for MLB clubs.
If Sasaki waits a few years, he could enjoy the kind of riches that await Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who the Yankees, Mets and several other teams are vying for hundreds of millions of dollars.
Yamamoto pitched for seven seasons with the Orix Buffaloes, earning him a right-hander and a sizable income for both sides.