On Tuesday, it was announced that right-handed pitcher Shun Yamaguchi of the Yomiuri Giants would be posted making him eligible to be signed by a major league team for 2020 and beyond. Yamaguchi joins Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, Shogo Akiyama, and Ryosuke Kikuchi in this year’s class of NPB players who could be playing in the big leagues come Opening Day. We’ve written about the slappy Akiyama and the sluggy Tsutsugo, so it’s time to take a closer look at Yamaguchi before he signs with a team that isn’t the Giants.
Thanks to quick looks from Kazuto Yamazaki and Jim Allen we know that Yamaguchi has four pitches: a fastball that sits around 90 mph, a put-away splitter, a slider, and a curveball.
FB averaged at 90 MPH in 2019. Splitter is his go-to put-away. Throws a SL and CV as well. Likely a mid-rotation starter. https://t.co/wPTURSVzLi— Kazuto Yamazaki (@Kazuto_Yamazaki) November 18, 2019
Allen notes that the 32-year-old cut back on his fastball usage in 2019 relying more on the splitter and slider. It seemed to work for him as he led NPB in strikeouts with 189 in 181 innings and swinging strike rate at 13.5 percent. Yamaguchi owns a 3.33 ERA in 14-season career though many of his innings came out of relief. From 2008 to 2013, Yamaguchi was primarily a reliever and often a closer.
The Giants’ decision to post Yamaguchi is a break from tradition because the team has never posted a player before. But the Gerardo Parra era has begun for the Yomiuri Giants. By this time next year, roughly 40 percent of their fanbase will own a shark onesie, so they’re in for some wild times. Because Yamaguchi has been posted, he will cost whichever major league team signs him an additional fee based on the contract amount. The breakdown is as follows:
· 20 percent of the first $25 million
· 17.5 percent of the next $25 million
· 15 percent of any amount above $50 million.
It’s difficult to estimate how much Yamaguchi would demand. Last offseason, Yusei Kikuchi signed for a three-year deal worth $43 million with a club option for a four-year extension worth $66 million that becomes a one-year player option for $13 million if the Mariners decline the extension, which they probably will. Kikuchi is four years younger than Yamaguchi, so it’s hard to see him getting more than that. My wild guess is that Yamaguchi signs for a two-year deal between $25-30 million with options and incentives built in.
Because baseball is in fact bad, Yamaguchi comes with some off-the-field issues. In 2017, Yamaguchi had a violent outburst at a hospital where he was having a hand-injury treated. Yamaguchi had been drinking prior to his visit, and he shoved a security guard into a desk and damaged a door. This makes it hard to get excited about the guy. The Giants have had their fill of pitchers with vendettas against doors let alone people who force others into desks or onto the ground.
If that was indeed an isolated incident and Yamaguchi has put that ugliness behind him, he sounds like a solid pitcher. Of course, there are other solid, relatively cheap pitchers available who haven’t gotten drunk and shoved a security guard. Like Kyle Gibson, who I wrote about at Beyond the Box Score or Tanner Roark, who would remind us of the Belt bat drop every time he pitched.