Seibu Lions left-hander Yusei Kikuchi will be posted on December 3, according to an official announcement on Friday. Negotiations for the southpaw’s services can start as soon as December 5, and he’ll have 30 days to work out a new deal with an MLB team before the window closes on January 4, 2019. Per the Japan Times, Kikuchi will return to Nippon Professional Baseball if no agreement can be made during that time frame.
Kikuchi, 27, pitched to a 14-4 record in 23 starts with a 3.08 ERA, 2.5 BB/9 and 8.4 SO/9 through 163 2/3 innings with the Lions in 2018. While those numbers reflected a downward trend from his career-best totals in 2017 (including a stunning 1.97 ERA and team-leading 217 strikeouts), he profiles as a strong mid-rotation option in the majors and his relative youth and consistency will only boost his appeal to interested MLB clubs this winter. He’s said to be represented by agent Scott Boras, who previously worked with former Lions right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2006.
As the posting date is still over a week away, no frontrunner has emerged for the flame-throwing lefty just yet. The Phillies, Red Sox and Dodgers are all rumored to be interested, though the pool of candidates is likely to grow given that the Lions’ ace is talented enough to contribute to a contending team and young enough to wait out the growing pains of a rebuild. Under the revised posting system that was put into motion last winter, any serious suitor will have to pony up 20 percent of the first $25 million of the contract, with another 17.5 percent of the next $25 million and 15 percent of any remaining money on the table (bonuses, options and incentives included). Kikuchi himself said that he has no strong preference for any one major-league team, instead telling reporters, “Wherever it is that I do go, my desire is to prepare so that I can contribute.”