At a time when Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, two former members of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball league, are dominating headlines as the top free agents in Major League Baseball, yet another NPB star would reportedly like to transfer to America sooner than later.
Roki Sasaki, the 22-year-old wunderkind who captured global attention with a 19-strikeout perfect game in April 2022, has requested to be posted for MLB consideration, according to a Yahoo Japan report. Yahoo adds that the posting deadline falls on Dec. 15 and that there's a "high possibility" Sasaki's team, the Chiba Lotte Marines, will not accept his request.
Jorge Castillo and Jack Harris of the Los Angeles Times recently raised eyebrows by suggesting that Sasaki's contract with the Marines may include a clause similar to the one Ohtani had with the Nippon Ham Fighters that empowered him to leave for MLB whenever he desired. Here's that note:
Ohtani had the option to leave for the majors whenever he wanted included in his contract with Nippon Ham. Sasaki is thought to also have that clause in his deal with Chiba Lotte.
Both Sasaki and the Marines have financial incentive for him to wait a few years. Because of MLB's posting agreement with NPB, Sasaki is too young and inexperienced to be deemed more than an amateur free agent. That means he would be subject to the same spending limits that caused Ohtani to be severely underpaid for the first several seasons of his career. In turn, Sasaki signing a submarket value deal would limit the Marines' posting fee.
That doesn't mean Sasaki can't or won't find a way to the majors before he would age out of those limitations (after the 2026 season), but it is something to keep in mind for the time being.
Sasaki was limited by injury to just 15 starts this season. He posted a 1.78 ERA and a 7.94 strikeout-to-walk ratio on the strength of his high-powered fastball and trapdoor splitter combination. The Los Angeles Dodgers are expected to be one of his top suitors whenever he is posted. Top executive Andrew Friedman was in attendance for Sasaki's bullpen sessions leading up to the most recent World Baseball Classic.