deja vu all over again
Originally diagnosed with a sprained ankle suffered in his April 6 season debut, SoftBank Hawks ace Kodai Senga is now expected to miss two to three months due to ligament damage in his left ankle.
But the injury could cost him much more than that. If he does not make it back in three months it could delay his qualification to file for free agency for a full year.
Senga, who tied for the 2020 Pacific League lead in wins and strikeouts, while leading the league in ERA, has long expressed a desire to move to the majors and has petitioned the Hawks to let him move via the posting system, something the team has repeatedly refused to consider.
That makes this wonderful right-hander’s tenure in Fukuoka tied to the nine years of service time he needs to file for international free agency.
Senga, who was first activated on April 30, 2012, has amassed by my count seven years and 20 days. He needs another 125 days this season to make this year count and keep him on track for international free agency after the 2022 season.
Senga in the service
|2013||145 – full||4||1|
|2014||72 + 60 for injury||136||1|
|2015||28 + 117 remaining||19||2|
|2016||145 – full||19||3|
|2017||145 – full||19||4|
|2018||145 – full||19||5|
|2019||145 – full||19||6|
|2020||145 – full||19||7|
Players injured on the field, can get up to 60 days of injury service time a year, and he’ll need that. This is a difficult year because I haven’t confirmed how the Olympic break — NPB will shut down between the middle of July and the middle of August — will affect service time.
It appears to be about 25 days, meaning that if he comes back on July 20, he’ll have 60 days of injury time, 78 days left in the regular season and more if the Hawks make the Climax Series, plus April 6 and 19 days he’s carried over since the end of the 2015 season.
That’s 158, and plenty to clear the 145 he needs to count this year. But if the injury sidelines him for four months, or he needs surgery, he’s screwed. He’s already missed more than a year for an injury suffered in June 2014, and got 60 days that year, but he lost most of 2015.
If this story sounds familiar, it should. As I wrote in March, Yuki Yanagita was in a similar bind in 2019. He missed half the season, and had the Hawks activated him from his rehab a few days earlier, he would have qualified for free agency five months ago, but they didn’t. Instead, they offered him a seven-year anchor of a contract and he’ll never leave.
So if Senga is still out of action or pitching on the farm in rehab games in August, expect the Hawks to err on the side of caution and not rush his return.