Tag Archives: Pacific League

NPB April start date springs leaks

Despite the teams’ chant of full-speed ahead toward an April 24 start to the season despite the coronavirus pandemic, Sports Nippon on Tuesday morning provided the first inkling that anyone in Nippon Professional Baseball is willing to consider anything else as they move forward.

Later in the day, the six Pacific League presidents met online and agreed that with infections on the rise, April 24 was probably out of the question, Sports Nippon reported.

“We started by setting an Opening Day target and teams have been counting backward from then to figure out when to resume practicing. But first of all, you wait until the epidemic settles down, then you resume practice and then you ask when Opening Day should be. That should be the normal order…”

Pacific League official cited by Sports Nippon.

NPB has now met three times with Japan’s J-League pro soccer executives to discuss how to proceed with their season and after meeting with a panel of experts, have twice pushed back the start of their season.

Here is a link to my coronavirus-NPB timeline

The story quoted secretary general Atsushi Ihara, as saying, “We are taking in the panel of experts’ evaluation, analysis and projection of the infection situation, and of course, we have to consider that.”

In addition to April 24, which NPB revealed in March was the last day their simulations suggested they could complete a full 143-game schedule, they have also run simulations for seasons that start on May 8 and May 15.

Fighters announce new stadium to be known ES CON Field Hokkaido

The Nippon Ham Fighters announced the sale of the naming rights for their new stadium in Kita Hiroshima, Hokkaido, on Wednesday, saying the value of the deal is believed to be the highest in the history of sports in Japan, exceeding the 470 million yen ($4.3 million) a year paid by Nissan for the rights to Yokohama International Stadium — the home of the J-League’s Yokohama F Marinos soccer club.

Here’s the Fighters English page.

The natural grass field with a retractable roof is expected to open for business in 2023 and will be known as ES CON Field Hokkaido. The new naming rights holder is real estate developer ES-CON Japan, a subsidiary of the Chubu Electric Power Group that will be involved in the development of the surrounding property — known as Hokkaido Ballpark F Village.

The development is located near Kita Hiroshima Station about 8 kilometers east of the Fighters’ current home, Sapporo Dome.

When it is built, it will give all six Pacific League teams complete operating rights over their ballpark. Orix, SoftBank, and Seibu are the majority owners of their stadiums, while Rakuten and Lotte hold operating licenses. Only three of the six Central League clubs own the operating rights to their stadium.

The Fighters relocated to Sapporo in 2004, where they have dramatically increased the size of their fan base and their sponsorship revenues. In addition to the new ballpark, the team has also negotiated a major upgrade of its spring training base in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture.

Scout Diary: Jan. 23, 2020

I’m a day behind discussing the best infield tools in Japan, although to be precise these were done the other day. Before the One-year scouting diary page got too big and unwieldy I opted to make it a collection of links to individual posts, and editing issues took up that time.

The informational interviews required for my class (at least the ones in Japan) are going forward. I want to pursue a bunch of them in the U.S.– because I hope to get those people’s attention — and in Japan because if I am a scout here, I need a network of people to help me in my effort to get good information out.

Jump to 1 year as a scout page

Before I dive off the deep end and start cold calling MLB teams, I wanted to explain how my interview with the Waseda University manager is going. First I talked to him and we set up a time. This was easy because he’s a Facebook friend. Then I had to arrange it with the university. I called the baseball department — not the athletic department but the baseball department — only to be told to go to the university website and fill out an interview request with their PR department. I’m kind of challenged because explaining that this is not for my work as a journalist — in Japanese — is extremely challenging, even when speaking, In writing it is virtually impossible for me. Anyway, that’s done and the baseball department’s manager called me back and told me when and where to show up.

So back to business

Defensive tools: Pacific League shortstops

The three top finishers in the PL’s 2019 Golden Glove voting were:

  • Sosuke Genda, Seibu Lions
  • Kenta Imamiya, SoftBank Hawks
  • Takuya Nakashima, Nippon Ham Fighters

Based on video I saw, all three have

  • quick feet
  • lateral quickness on ground balls
  • soft hands
  • raw arm strength
  • quick smooth transfers
  • can throw from all angles

Other considerations

Imamiya is as good at catching the ball as anyone I’ve seen. He is the Trevor Story of the three, 75 raw arm strength who doesn’t set his feet as often as he might and is not quite as accurate as his rivals.

Imamiya is really, really good at catching the ball. He smothers throws that dare to skip away from him. He is the Trevor Story of the three, 75 raw arm strength who doesn’t set his feet as often as he might and is not quite as accurate as his rivals.

Genda may have 65-70 arm strength, but his release is as quick as anybody’s. He’s also the best at backhanding balls, something virtually no Japanese amateurs are taught. He sets his feet well and is extremely accurate.
Nakashima appears to have the strongest arm of the three, but his ball transfer is just a tick behind the others, and he looks less comfortable backhanding the ball.

All things considered, as much as I love Imamiya scramble for the ball, Genda appears to be the best overall tools package.

Sosuke Genda

Rakuten acquires reliever Chargois

The Rakuten Eagles of Japan’s Pacific League have acquired Los Angeles Dodgers reliever JT Chargois a day after he was released by the National League club, according to a report by Sports Nippon on Monday, citing sources.

The Eagles, who won their only PL and Japan Series pennant in 2013, are expected to move lefty closer Yuki Matsui into the starting rotation next year. Chargois, who turned 29 in December and made his big league debut for the Twins in 2016, has struck out 85 batters in 76-2/3 innings.

The Eagles, who hired former Dodger Kazuhisa Ishii as their general manager a year ago, finished third last year in the league, reaching the postseason for the first time since 2017. The club got a big boost from new import Jabari Blash, who posted a .936 OPS in a career-high 527 plate appearances for the Sendai-based Eagles.

The kotatsu league: Orix signs Padres minor leaguers Higgins, Rodriguez

Former San Diego Padres minor leaguers Tyler Higgins and Aderlin Rodriguez have signed with the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s Pacific League, the club announced Monday according to online site fullcount.

HIggins, who began his career with the Miami Marlins, is a 28-year-old right-hander who has spent most of his career at Double-A. At Triple-A El Paso last year, where former Japan closer Akinori Otsuka served as a pitching coach, Higgins struck out 50 batters in 45-2/3 innings while issuing 13 walks and surrendering 13 home runs.

Rodriguez, who is from the Dominican Republic and turned 28 in November, is a right-handed hitter who hit 19 home runs in 289 plate appearances for El Paso while striking out 46 times and drawing 14 walks. It was his lone season in Triple-A.

The Buffaloes have also acquired veteran major league outfielder Adam Jones on a two-year deal, and are bringing back outfielder-first baseman Steven Moya, starting pitcher Andrew Albers and closer Brandon Dickson.

Lotte signs Dominican amateur Acosta: report

The Lotte Marines have signed hard-throwing Dominican amateur Jose Acosta to a developmental contract, the Hochi Shimbun reported Monday, citing informed sources.

According to the report, the acquisition of 25-year-old Acosta, who has no pro experience, and 30-year-old Venezuelan Jose Flores, who pitched this year for the Toyama Thunderbirds of the independent BC League, will be announced in the coming days.

Acosta, a 1.87-meter, 89-kilogram right-hander, pitched for his country in this summer’s Pan Am Games. His fastball has been recorded at 164 kilometers per hour. He also possesses an effective slider and change.

At a tryout in the Dominican, his average fastball velocity was 157 kph.

The 1.91-meter, 120-kg Flores, who throws in the 150-159 kph range, tried out for the club in October at the Pacific League club’s home park, Zozo Marine Stadium, in Chiba. He is also headed for a developmental contract, that does not count against the team’s 70-man roster and does not allow him to play on the top team.

Orix, Jones and Japan’s favorite game

Expect Adam Jones to be playing in Japan next year.

A day after Kyodo News reported in Japanese that the Orix Buffaloes had reached an agreement with the veteran big-league outfielder, the club’s GM, Junichi Fukura told reporters outside the winter meetings in San Diego that the two sides were “close and that talks were progressing well.”

But because it was not a complete and total rejection, Fukura’s non-denial denial amounts to a confirmation that the deal is done.

This may sound like a contradiction, but it’s not. Rather, it’s proof that the Buffaloes are playing Japanese sports’ favorite game: waiting on the time that suits the team to actually admit what everybody knows — while pretending nothing happens until they say so.

Japanese clubs do things at their speed, almost as if the news doesn’t exist unless they themselves announce it. It was that way with the Yomiuri Giants and the posting of pitcher Shun Yamaguchi. Numerous news agency’s all “broke” the news at the same time. The truth was out there before but the Giants had their timetable. This is not to pick on the Giants. Japanese soccer and rugby teams are famous for doing the same.

NPB games, news of Sept. 24, 2019

And then there were 2 (undecided playoff spots)

Tuesday started with five playoff spots still undecided, but with two games featuring all four Pacific League playoff and pennant aspirants, things got settled in a hurry as the Seibu Lions knocked the Lotte Marines out of the postseason, while clinching the pennant after the Rakuten Eagles locked up third place by knocking the SoftBank Hawks out of pennant contention.

“A lot was said about our pitching,” Lions manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji said after his team clinched with a league-worst 4.31 ERA. “But the closer we got to the finish line, the better it got.”

The Lions have now won back-to-back pennants while finishing last in ERA. The only other team to do so was the 2001 Kintetsu Buffaloes.

Pacific League

Lions 12, Marines 4

At Zozo Marine Stadium, Lotte’s Kota Futaki (7-10) threw a string of poor pitches up in the zone and got hammered, while Zach Neal (12-1) allowed three runs, one earned, while not issuing a walk for the fourth-straight game.

Shogo Akiyama, who’s said he’s bound for the major leagues after the season ends, broke the game open with a three-run, second-inning triple.

The Lions will wrap up their season on Thursday in a now meaningless game in Sendai against the Eagles, who locked up third place and the final playoff spot. The Lions will host the final stage of the PL Climax Series at MetLife Dome on Oct. 9. They will play the winners of the best-of-three first stage in Fukuoka between the Hawks and Eagles starting on Oct. 5.

Game highlights are HERE.

Eagles 4, Hawks 2

At Rakuten Seimei Park, Zelous Wheeler’s 19th home run, a two-run shot, overcame a 1-0 deficit against Kodai Senga (13-9) and Rakuten overcame a tense ninth before closer Yuki Matsui got the final out against SoftBank.

Wheeler gave a typically laconic hero interview HERE.

With both Senga and Eagles starter Manabu Mima proved adept at pitching out of jams, with Mima making a couple of big fielding plays to hold the Hawks to a run over five innings on Alfredo Despaigne’s 34th home run.

Matsui came close to blowing a three-run lead in the ninth but held on for his 38th save.

Game highlights are HERE.

Fighters 3, Buffaloes 1

At Kyocera Dome, Chihiro Kaneko, who left Orix in a contract dispute improved to 5-0 against his former team with five scoreless innings lowering the Buffaloes’ former ace’s ERA against them this season to 0.49 over 37 innings.

Tyler Eppler worked two innings of relief for the Buffaloes, striking out five. Here’s the video of his 1-2-3 fifth against the heart of the Fighters order.

Game highlights are HERE.

Central League

Tigers 5, Giants 0

At Koshien Stadium, Hanshin stayed alive in the hunt for a playoff spot as five pitchers combined on a six-hit shutout of league champion Yomiuri. The Tigers trail the third-place Carp by 1-1/2 games. Hanshin has three games remaining, Hiroshima one, but none against each other.

Game highlights are HERE.

BayStars 7, Dragons 1

At Nagoya Dome, Toshiro Miyazaki hit a three-run first-inning home run as DeNA came close to locking up second place while eliminating Chunichi from playoff contention.

With the exception of the 2004 to 2006 PL seasons and those seasons in the 1970s and 80s when the PL had a first-half/second-half championship playoff, Japan’s regular season has decided the league pennants. Since the Central League appropriated the PL playoff system in 2007, the playoffs have only served to select which team from each league plays in the Japan Series.

Stewart hopeful others will follow

Carter Stewart not only has high expectations for his next six years in Japan, but he hopes he is the first of many American baseball players to turn pro on this side of the Pacific. On Monday, just hours before Major League Baseball’s June draft that he skipped out in order to sign with the SoftBank Hawks, Stewart met the press in Fukuoka.

“There are a lot of reasons why I wanted to come over here, but a big thing is the atmosphere, the quality of baseball, the facilities,” said at a press conference. “Those are some of the key points, when I got here that showed me they were top notch, that they were high-class grade baseball. That’s the real reason I chose to play over here.”

The opportunity was made possible by the Atlanta Braves lowering their signing bonus offer to him last year and by the huge gap between what MLB teams are willing to pay amateurs up front and what Japanese teams can gain from those players’ services. Japan also offers the possibility that he could enter MLB as a free agent after the 2024 season, at least two years earlier than he could hope to reach that status in the majors.

Instead of watching minor league teammates struggle to exist and survive on sub-poverty wages, Stewart will be among people who are housed and paid relatively well in a structured, clean and safe environment.

“The way with the baseball is now in the States, more amateurs at least should give this a try… Anybody who plays baseball, they want a chance to play high-quality baseball,” he said.

“In the future, I would hope some more amateur players from the U.S. would want to come over here, just because. From what I’ve seen, I only have great things to say. I don’t know if more will follow, but I hope that someday more guys from the States will come.”

Meanwhile, according to Kyodo News, Hawks GM Sugihiko Mikasa denied reports from the United States that Stewart would be able to make use of the posting system to enter MLB prior to the conclusion of his six-year-contract.

Posting Stewart would pose a problem for the Hawks, who have denied the request of their best pitcher, Kodai Senga, to make use of the posting system.

Carter Stewart can change the world

Carter Stewart hasn’t thrown a baseball in anger as a member of the SoftBank Hawks, but his arrival in Japan, as the first big-name American amateur to turn pro with a Japanese team, could cause a ripple effect through baseball’s labor markets. It could mean an end to the posting system or more money for U.S. amateurs from MLB.

Say it again: “This is MLB’s fault”

Although the Hawks signing Stewart is news, it is not a new story. His signing is made possible by MLB and its union conspiring to deprive amateur players of the right to fair value for their service, and MLB’s choice to further clamp down on the below-subsistence wages paid to minor league players.

Without those two factors, no Japanese club is going to spend what it would be worth to lure a top amateur to NPB, at least not as long as the economic structure in NPB continues without significant change.

But with MLB’s draft signing pool bonuses, draft slot values, and the criminal level of pay in the minor leagues, Japanese teams can now pay the best American amateurs less than they’re worth but vastly more than MLB clubs can.

Sure, there’s a limit on having four players on each team’s active roster in Japan, but NPB clubs could theoretically have up to 52 foreign players under contract, not including those on developmental contracts, who don’t count against each organization’s 70-man official roster.

Japan was in a similar bind 25 years ago

A quarter of a century ago, Nippon Professional Baseball’s owners were bullied into allowing the Yomiuri Giants sign their big name veteran stars by agreeing to the introduction of free agency after the 1993 season.

What was intended as a way for the country’s biggest-name franchise to enrich itself at the expense of its business partners became something else altogether within two years. The free agent system was predicated on owners’ belief that competition in the majors was too hard for Japanese players.

Unfortunately, for the NPB owners, that belief was proved wrong in the most dramatic fashion by pitcher Hideo Nomo.

Jean Afterman, then working with Nomo’s agent Don Nomura, found the loophole needed to punish NPB for its arrogance. Because NPB rules considered Japanese players to be inferior and incapable of playing in the majors, they were permitted to play abroad after retiring in Japan.

So Nomo “retired” and became Japan’s first free agent import to the major leagues. Although NPB closed that loophole within a few years, the free agent route that was meant to enrich the Yomiuri Giants with Japan’s top talent, soon became a highway for Japanese stars to leave for the major leagues.

This could be something big — or not

The question then is whether this type of deal will become a supply line for Japanese baseball to upgrade its talent base at the expense of MLB.

In order for that to happen, Japanese teams will need to handle the players and develop them in a sustainable relationship with MLB so the international rules don’t change at the whim of MLB and its union.

The Japanese side of the equation

The SoftBank Hawks were perfectly placed for this kind of venture. They have the money, the infrastructure, the patience, and the will. Since SoftBank’s founder Masayoshi Son took over the club in 2005, he has aspired to field the world’s best baseball team and has frequently pestered his staff to sign the biggest names available.

Son has repeatedly challenge major league owners to an international championship series between the NPB and MLB champs, something that will happen the second MLB owners think it’s profitable.

The Hawks have invested heavily in development and in their medical side. While other clubs expect first-year pros to make an immediate impact, Hawks newcomers have to slog their way through an impressive logjam of minor league talent to even get a shot at the top.

The Hawks are an exception, but with the will, a few other teams, the PL’s Rakuten Eagles and the CL’s Giants, Hiroshima Carp and DeNA BayStars could join them in a true money ball campaign — exploiting the sizeable gap between what MLB requires amateurs be paid and what they are worth to Japanese teams. In 2023, when the Nippon Ham Fighters open their new stadium outside Sapporo and begin generating huge amounts of revenue, they could become players as well.

The Carp probably won’t go down this road, although they are well situated to expand into MLB’s Dominican Republic player pool because of their academy in that country. Hiroshima is focused on recycling talented players who fail in their first shot with big league clubs but are not willing to see their baseball dreams die.

But for now, it’s just the Hawks.

The MLB side of the equation

The market solution on the MLB side is to increase the amount of the signing bonus pools and draft slot allocations so that those amounts at least equal the value of those players to NPB teams — eliminating the demand for those players by raising the prices.

But that’s not what MLB does, and doing so would require negotiations with its union to alter the details of the CBA.

The posting system, however, is not included in the CBA. Though the agreement must conform to the CBA and the union must sign off on it — as it did in December 2017. But because either MLB or NPB can back out of the deal with a few months notice, it’s an easy way for either side to fire a shot across the bow.

With the union’s cooperation, MLB could also take more drastic measures, such as instituting its own “Tazawa Rule” — named for Junichi Tazawa, because it effectively banned him from playing in NPB because he turned pro with the Boston Red Sox rather than submit to NPB’s draft. MLB could banish players who turn pro in Japan, but that seems like too drastic of a solution, and the Tazawa Rule hasn’t prevented Japanese from following his path.

The posting system

Ironically, punishing the Hawks by eliminating the posting system might be part of SoftBank’s grand plan, since the club has never used it and is opposed to its existence. That being said, the Hawks can use the posting process as part of their plan with Stewart.

If the deal is for six years, from June 2019 to June 2025, Stewart will qualify as an international free agent under current rules on Nov. 3, 2024, exactly when the posting period begins. If Stewart develops and has value, he will have options. SoftBank being SoftBank, they’d prefer Stewart to stay in Japan and sign an extension, but without an extension, Carter would be able to move to the States as a free agent when his contract expires.

Using the posting system prior to the 2025 season would allow the Hawks to recoup all the costs incurred with signing and training Stewart and essentially get paid to benefit from all his contributions. It’s also the reason why other clubs might jump on this train. They could make a profit signing and posting American amateurs, and eliminating the posting system would put a damper on that part of the business.

Still, the Hawks would be happy to see the posting system gone, because if it remains in place and Stewart has that option, SoftBank will have a hard time denying the requests of its Japanese stars, read Kodai Senga, who want to leave early.

But sooner or later, the Hawks are going to have to fall in line and post players if the system remains in place. That’s because at some point they’ll want to sign a player who will only work for a club that promises an early exit to the majors, read Roki Sasaki.null

The Shohei Ohtani example

Shohei Ohtani is one reason why MLB would like to weaken the posting system and raise the age of international free agency. If Japan’s best amateurs think it’s easier to get to the majors through free agency by going through NPB and the posting system, it will be even harder for MLB to sign kids like Roki Sasaki, which is the big league’s ultimate wet dream.

Being major league baseball, they think no one can teach professionals the way they can be prepared through in the minor leagues with all the soul-sapping crappy treatment that entails. But the real reason is the control that comes with signing amateurs. MLB is all about control, if it weren’t we wouldn’t see blatant service time manipulation.

If Japanese teams could take the best high school stars and promise to post them at the age of 23 so they could be international free agents, everyone would benefit, the NPB teams, the players, MLB. The only thing it would cost the MLB teams is control, and they put an awfully high value on that.

The problem is that by worrying so much about control, MLB guys lose sight of one fact, that Japan is a great place to learn how to play baseball.

The advantage of a Japanese education

There are things players won’t see in Japan, like a lot of 100 mile-per-hour fastballs, but other than that, you name it and Japanese baseball has it.

When a player ventures out of the minors and into Central and Pacific league, he faces some incredible pitchers, guys who can locate their fastball and then use NPB’s stickier baseball to throw some of the wickedest breaking balls in the world. Because the talent depth is thinner, there are pitchers who lack command and control, too, guys who throw more fat pitches that can be exploited.

“A lot can be gained from playing here. Playing in Japan is a great way to develop a hitter. Look what happened with Shohei Ohtani. He’s an elite hitter and an elite pitcher. That couldn’t have happened in the States.”

Former Detroit Tigers and San Diego Padres GM Randy Smith

For a pitcher, there is less pressure from lineups where every batter is trying to take you deep, but those batters are there along with guys who can foul off one good pitch after another, and are really, really hard to strike out.

Players also get used to playing in pressure situations in meaningful games in front of large crowds. If minor league baseball are less meaningful because one goal of every player is to get promoted, NPB games are more meaningful because they are all about winning, and there is value in that.

The other side is the fanatical amount of discipline and practice, which can be a good thing if a player embraces it. Another advantage is a good diet, a place to live in the team dormitory, a healthy diet and easy access to training facilities.

What this means for Carter Stewart

It means an opportunity to learn more about pitching than he would ever learn in the United States. If there is a weakness in the Japanese system, it is that so many talented pitchers never survive the nation’s old-school youth baseball traditions.

Some NPB training methods are obsolete, and most pro coaches tend to teach players to follow established models rather than find what works best for them as individuals. In that, however, there are messages worth learning if one can handle the often authoritarian way in which those messages are delivered. If Stewart can handle that, remain humble, remember that he is coming to learn and improve, he will excel to the degree he is physically and mentally able to handle.

Simply by reaching out to Stewart, the Hawks have instantly changed the way MLB views Japan since this is something it considered impossible. If Stewart succeeds and comes out of this as a world-class player, that will be a further shock to MLB owners who have shown little but disdain for Japanese baseball.

6 things to know about NPB

With 19-year-old prospect Carter Stewart reportedly days away from signing with the SoftBank Hawks of Japan’s Pacific League, here are six things you might want to know:

This is MLB’s doing

By assigning maximum dollar amounts to draft picks in its amateur draft, MLB further reduced the rights amateurs have to sell their talent for a fair value. The draft already hampers this, by forcing amateurs to negotiate with only one team. But the signing bonus pools, introduced in 2012, and the decrepit status of minor league baseball, has now made Japan a viable alternative for the right candidate.

Nippon Professional Baseball teams, like those in the majors, are limited to how much they can pay amateurs acquired through the draft process, and these limits are much lower. While players used to receive millions of dollars under the table, those days appear to be over and the maximums of a 100 million yen ($905,000) signing bonus and 15 million yen ($136,000) first-year salary.

However, because there are no spending restraints on foreign talent, the Hawks could ostensibly spend as much as they like on foreign professionals or amateurs.

NPB recognizes 2 kinds of players: domestic and foreign

Domestic players — those who have played amateur ball and lived in Japan for specified periods of time, and all Japanese citizens — can only enter NPB after registering for and being selected in the October amateur draft. Japanese citizens such as Micheal Nakamura, Kazuhito Tadano and Mac Suzuki who turned pro in the States, entered NPB through its “amateur draft.”

Foreigners are everyone else, and different rules apply to them. For one thing, foreign players without nine years of first-team service time are subject to a quota. Each team can have only four foreign players on its active roster with a maximum of three position players or three pitchers.

This is not the first effort by an amateur’s agent

International directors of more than one NPB team have said they are occasionally approached by agents looking to use their clubs as developmental staging areas where players can go for a year or two to sharpen their skills and raise their profiles in MLB’s amateur draft.

One NPB executive, however, said such offers raise “ethical questions.”

A six-year deal, like the one currently being reported for Stewart, is a new approach, however. This brings us to the next point.

NPB only permits 1-year contracts

Wait a second. How could Carter Stewart sign for six years when NPB doesn’t recognize multiyear deals? The answer is that multiyear contracts are essentially personal service contracts between player and team that specify the nature of the official annual contracts signed and submitted to NPB.

Because these contracts are essentially backroom deals, they are often poorly reported. Teams and players can tell the media whatever figures they want to regardless of the contract’s actual terms.

So a six-year deal with a foreign player would be a document specifying the nature of six, one-year deals.

Japanese players can wait forever to play in MLB

NPB teams can reserve a domestic player until he has accumulated enough service time in the Central or Pacific leagues to file for free agency.

Those drafted out of high school are eligible for domestic free agency after eight years, those drafted after playing at a higher level, JC, university, corporate league ball and so on, can move to a different NPB team after seven years. But to go abroad requires nine years of service time.

That’s one reason why the posting system was created. Teams losing top players as domestic free agents can get some measure of compensation. Teams losing players to MLB get nothing.

Foreign players generally don’t need to be posted

Although a handful of foreign players have been posted, they generally work on one-, two- or three-year deals and just wait until those deals end and they can move to the U.S. as free agents — provided they are not considered amateurs by MLB rules.

This is a big point if you are Carter Stewart.

In December, three agents — including Stewarts’ agent Scott Boras — said that all U.S. and Canadian citizens are subject to MLB’s amateur draft regardless of their overseas experience.

  • Here is the transcript an audio of my chat with Boras from Dec. 13, 2018.

That is true, but the same rules stipulate that foreign residents are considered international players and international professionals if they are at least 25 years old with six years as a professional in a “league recognized by Major League Baseball” — which may or may not include Japan’s Eastern and Western leagues, the latter which contains the Hawks’ top farm team.

The SoftBank Hawks have never posted a player, have said they never will, and will not have to start with Stewart. Provided he establishes residence in Japan, which is not that hard, Stewart will have the option of morphing into an international professional and signing with the MLB team of his choosing as a free agent.

A source has told me the Hawks’ goal is for Stewart to thrive and prosper in Japan — so much so that he never wants to leave. This is not so far-fetched as it seems. A lot of players come here with the plan of polishing their skills enough to reboot their careers in America. Some do that, but many who do also find Japan addictive and hard to leave.

But there’s always a 1st time…

With Jeff Passan telling me that posting is part of the deal, it occurred to me that while posting is in no way obligatory, it might be a slick move.

Let’s say the Hawks sign Stewart to a year longer than he needs to establish himself as an international free agent. At the conclusion of his penultimate season, SoftBank could post him — assuming MLB has not opted to exchange dollars in its posting agreement with NPB to peanuts by then. If he becomes a star in Japan, the Hawks would receive a portion equal to around 15 percent of his first MLB deal.

Of course that assumes the Hawks are willing to set that precedent while telling their host of Japanese players (read Kodai Senga) to go to hell and wait.