It’s Thursday in Japan, and we might be able to guess one condition on the very unusual Masataka Yoshida posting, while Shohei Ohtani said he intends to play for Japan in the World Baseball Classic, which now means Samurai Japan is waiting to see if Yu Darvish and Seiya Suzuki follow suit.
All three have expressed interest, all three of their teams have given the green light, and all three are represented by Wasserman’s Joel Wolfe, who shed some light on their concerns at last week’s General manager meetings.
Looked like a red herring
When the Orix Buffaloes implied they would attach conditions to posting Masataka Yoshida, it seemed unlikely he would be allowed to leave. But now he is leaving, and that news followed hot on the heels of Tomoya Mori’s agreeing to terms with Orix as a free agent.
One of the conditions might have been Orix’s ability to replace Yoshida, which they have now done. The posting agreement prohibits under-the-table deals between posting teams and posted players, so it is unlikely that the Buffaloes have a verbal agreement to not sign a contract that would net Orix less than the $12 million they’ll need to pay Mori’s salary over the next four years.
The old Orix Buffaloes, with some of NPB’s slimiest characters behind the scenes might have done so, but now I’m inclined to doubt that.
Now a little bit about why I was so surprised.
I was told by MLB scouts to be prepared for his posting, but I tended to disbelieve it for two reasons:
- Over the past 20 years, a pattern has emerged, where a player will tell his team he wishes to be posted during his autumn contract negotiation, and then tell the beat reporters waiting at the team office for him that he had done so. Then the player would be posted the following year, or in the case of Yusei Kikuchi, two years later.
- Orix has a history of breaking its promises.
I’ve never met Yoshida, so I don’t know anything about how he rolls, but my guess is that he told Orix last year he wants to go, and they said they’d see, but he declined to spill that to the media. Hearing about it for the first time publicly after the Japan Series is a new pattern.
Every year, I’m inundated with questions from MLB people asking me to confirm whether this guy or that is going to be posted, frequently about players who haven’t come out in public and said so. And until now, everyone of those guys stayed at least another year. Yoshida is the exception.
Ohtani “intends to play in WBC”
Unless something drastic happens between now and March, Shohei Ohtani will line up with Samurai Japan at the next World Baseball Classic after missing the last one in 2017 due to an ankle injury.
Manager Hideki Kuriyama delivered the news in a press release Thursday:
“I heard directly from Ohtani about his intention to participate in the WBC, and that he recognized the significance of wearing the hinomaru on his shirt and the spirit of Samurai Japan. “
“I’m really grateful he made the decision at such an early stage, immediately after the end of his hard MLB season and in the midst of difficult conditioning ahead of next season, and I respect that.”
“I’ve been asking and talking to him about participating in the WBC. I am very happy that he made this decision for the sake of baseball in Japan and the children of Japan. This further increases my sense of responsibility for leading Samurai Japan.”
At the general managers meetings in Las Vegas, Wolfe said Ohtani, Darvish and Suzuki all want to play for Japan, and were seriously considering but had to square it with the obligations they felt to their teams.
Suzuki, who entered his first MLB season after an abbreviated spring training is, Wolfe said, weighing wether he can produce his best for the Cubs in 2023 without a whole spring spent with his teammates in Arizona.
Darvish is also concerned about his fitness for 2023 and a shortened turnaround that the WBC will demand after repeatedly going deep into his late postseason starts for the Padres.