Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano will be back in Japan for 2021, and though he probably is not the best pitcher in Japan right now as some in the U.S. media have labeled him in the crush for hyperbola, he’s not far from the best.
I speculated on some of the reasons why a Japanese star should not just leap into a major league deal, and Sugano himself cited the direction MLB is going during the coronavirus pandemic.
On Sunday, Japan got a bit of perspective.
“It wasn’t something I could be 100 percent satisfied,” Sugano told Japan’s media.
His agent, Joel Wolfe, had a media availability, a portion of which was aired on TV in Japan and that clip was then shared on Twitter.
- Wolfe: “It was very tough.”
- —How many teams made a clear offer?
- Wolfe: “Six. He had several four-year offers, three-year offers and two-year offers.. Our expectation and his expectation what a fair contract was a bit different. And I ended up having to call that general manager with two minutes to go. “
- Wolfe: “He was able to draw on his relationships with (Yu) Darvish and (Kenta) Maeda. They all offered so much assistance and advice. I don’t think he will ever regret…”
- Wolfe: “I think the major league teams are really going to regret…”
Although Wolfe implied money kept the two sides apart, it could well be that the money offered was not enough to outweigh Sugano’s concerns about playing in the States now.
Waseda University manager Satoru Komiyama, for years the workhorse of the Lotte Marines rotation, and briefly a New York Met, threw in his two cents. In a Facebook comment, he said considerations of money shouldn’t matter if one really desires to work from a major league mound. He suggested that agents, not players, were the ones who made a big deal about contract value.
Here’s a Kyodo News‘ 2019 interview with Komiyama
When veteran Japanese stars take pay cuts to play in the majors, or who turn their back on minor-league deals to return to lucrative contracts with their old teams in Japan, there are questions.
I have questioned the quick U-turns of Takashi Toritani, Nobuhiro Matsuda and Ryosuke Kikuchi. Each espoused a great desire to play abroad, but at the same time prioritized a happy exit from their Japanese clubs. None of them would negotiate past a certain date, they said, because that would leave their clubs back home in a bind about whether or not they would be available for the upcoming season.
To be sure, Matsuda’s case was unusual. A Japanese attorney negotiating his next contract with the Hawks complicated his American agent’s negotiations by talking directly to the San Diego Padres’ people on the ground in Fukuoka.
Every deal, however, is unique in its way because every player has different concerns for his career, for his life off the field and for his family. It’s probably never JUST about money.
Sugano really wanted to play in the majors. Either that or he’s been really good at making people think that for years.
On Sunday, SoftBank Hawks chairman Sadaharu Oh, who would have given some part of his anatomy for a chance to play in the majors when he was young, told TBS network’s Sunday Morning, “He absolutely wanted to go.”
“I believe he wanted to see how well his pitching skill would play in America.”
Sugano has reportedly received a four-year offer from Yomiuri with annual opt-outs allowing him to go a year from now if he likes, although he could also sign a one-year deal and file for international free agency if he can compile the necessary service time.
“Is next year the best chance for him given his age? I think so,” Oh said. “But I think he really wanted to do it now.”