The Nippon Ham Fighters have agreed to post ace pitcher Kohei Arihara and center fielder Haruki Nishikawa, both 28, Sports Nippon first reported Tuesday, news that has since been confirmed by multiple outlets.
The Fighters are one of the Pacific League’s two minor powers over the past decade, but unlike their growth spurt after posting Yu Darvish, the team has skidded since sending Shohei Ohtani to the majors in 2018. Now they will lose a quality leadoff man — if someone takes Nishikawa — and their best pitcher, Arihara.
Japanese teams used to be able to decline insufficient posting fees but have since signed away those rights to MLB, so their only return in a soft market for Japanese position players is going to be minimal.
Arihara should net them around $10 million in fees when all is said and done.
The Fighters are in an interesting position. The team is not positioned to win for the next few years, and they will open their own stadium in 2023. Once they leave Sapporo Dome, the club will turn into a money-making machine, that could fund massive development and allow them to challenge the SoftBank Hawks, something they are incapable of at this instant.
The Seibu Lions have also invested heavily in infrastructure around the team’s home base in Saitama Prefecture on the western outskirts of Tokyo. That will likely keep the Lions from tumbling to where the Fighters are now, but their stadium’s location is always going to be a bottleneck for future success.
With Arihara and Nishikawa going into the December posting market, and Lotte Marines right-hander Ayumu Ishikawa taking a pass, that leaves Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano left as the big name yet to decide. There has been chatter about Marines reliever Hirokazu Sawamura, and MLB teams ARE interested in his wild, fastball-forkball arsenal, but Sugano is the prize if he and the Giants decide the time is right.
Sugano will be an international free agent a year from now, and the Giants would love to keep him around to help at a third straight Japan Series defeat, I mean birth, but in the way few MLB teams and fans would understand, the Giants owe him the chance to go if he likes.
Sugano pitched OK in Game 1 of the Japan Series on Saturday, and the game could easily have gone the other way, but if you want to see the real deal, watch him in the 2017 WBC semifinal against the United States.