Japanese southpaw Yusei Kikuchi to be posted in December

Yusei Kikuchi
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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.”

Free agent slugger José Abreu signs 3-year, $58.5M deal with Astros

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HOUSTON — Jose Abreu and the World Series champion Astros agreed to a three-year, $58.5 million contract, adding another powerful bat to Houston’s lineup.

Abreu, the 2020 AL MVP, gets $19.5 million in each of the next three seasons.

He spent his first nine major league seasons with the Chicago White Sox. The first baseman became a free agent after batting .304 with 15 home runs, 75 RBIs and an .824 OPS this year.

With the Astros, he replaces Yuli Gurriel at first base in a batting order that also features All-Star sluggers Yordan Alvarez, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker.

Gurriel became a free agent after Houston defeated the Philadelphia Phillies this month for its second World Series championship.

The 35-year-old Abreu becomes the biggest free agent to switch teams so far this offseason. Born in Cuba, the three-time All-Star and 2014 AL Rookie of the Year is a .292 career hitter in the majors with 243 homers, 863 RBIs and an .860 OPS.

The Astros announced the signing. Abreu was scheduled to be introduced in a news conference at Minute Maid Park.

He would get a $200,000 for winning an MVP award, $175,000 for finishing second in the voting, $150,000 for third, $125,000 for fourth and $100,000 for fifth. Abreu also would get $100,000 for earning World Series MVP and $75,000 for League Championship Series MVP, $75,000 for making the All-Star team and $75,000 for winning a Gold Glove or a Silver Slugger.

Abreu gets a hotel suite on road trips and the right to buy a luxury suite for all Astros home games.