Pitcher Yusei Kikuchi out of Japan could be an intriguing left-handed addition to the starting rotation of the Houston Astros.
The NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball) announced that Yusei Kikuchi has been posted. All thirty MLB teams have been notified that the negotiation period has begun and the bidding process is open. Kikuchi is considered one of the best pitchers in the NPB and could be the hard-throwing southpaw the Astros need to complement right-handed Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole.
The Saitama Seibu Lions of the NPB began the posting process for Kikuchi on Monday. Teams have thirty days to negotiate a deal with his agent Scott Boras. Kikuchi, 27, played for the Lions for eight years. Since he is over 25 years old and played for more than six seasons, he is not considered an international amateur free agent and the international bonus-pool restrictions will not apply.
If Kikuchi does sign with a team in the major leagues, the Lions would be granted a release fee based on the size of the contract. They would receive 20% of the first $25 million, 17.5% on the next $25 million and 15% on anything exceeding $50 million. The Lions also would get a 15% supplemental fee for any bonus, salary escalator or contract option included in the contract.
Kikuchi, who pitched for the same high school as Shohei Ohtani, has a fastball that averages 92-94 mph but has been known to reach as high as 98 mph. His complimentary pitches include a decent slider, along with a curveball and changeup.
In Kikuchi’s eight years with the Lions, he has put together a 73-46 record in 158 appearances. He has a career ERA of 2.77, which has dropped to 2.51 over his last three seasons. Kikuchi has compiled 903 strikeouts in 1010 2/3 innings pitched, eclipsing 200 Ks in 2017 in 26 games. His control has improved throughout his career averaging 3.7 walks per 9 IP in his 2017-18 seasons.
The off-season hot stove is heating up and there are some big name pitchers on the market, but they are in high demand. With the Astros current pitching roster being predominantly right-handed, a young, but experienced, lefty like Kikuchi might be a commodity Houston wants to keep on their radar.