Lions Kikuchi ready to roll into posting circus

Yusei Kikuchi will be posted on Dec. 3, the Seibu Lions said Friday as they held their victory parade and fan appreciation day in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture. With captain and second baseman Hideto Asamura leaving as a free agent for the Rakuten Eagles and former No. 1 catcher Ginjiro Sumitani reportedly set to move to the Central League’s Yomiuri Giants, the Lions’ chances of defending their Pacific League championship in 2019 are taking huge hits.

Asamaura’s departure is the second major player the Lions have turned over to the Eagles in recent years, following the move of star right-hander Takayuki Kishi two years ago.

Elsewhere, Hiroshima Carp center fielder Yoshihiro Maru, a good bet to win his second-straight CL MVP award next week, has been courted by the PL’s Lotte Marines and the Giants, while the Carp remain hopeful of bringing him back. Maru is a native of Chiba Prefecture, and by filing for domestic free agency this year, has forfeited his chances of moving to the majors next season as an unrestricted free agent–unless as some have hinted that he signs with a team willing to post him.

It’s hard to see how that would happen since the new posting system awards posting fees based on contract value, and the market isn’t likely to be that strong for a Japanese center fielder with some pop, defense and good plate discipline who will be adjusting to MLB at the age of 30.

While the Carp wait on Maru’s decision, they have handed manager Koichi Ogata a one-year contract extension for what will be his fifth season at Mazda Stadium. He is only the second manager in CL history to lead the same team to three straight championships, though that’s a bit of a red herring since the other guy was Tetsuharu Kawakami and he did it nine times.

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