Should the Mets pursue Japanese star pitcher?

The Mets have a desperate need for starting pitching help and one way to address it, is going outside the US. The Mets haven’t signed a lot of players from the Asian Baseball leagues, but with a new regime, it might be the time.

The newest star pitcher that’s about to be posted is Tomoyoki Sugano. The 31 year old righty is coming off a terrific year for the Yomiuri Giants in the NPB. Over 137.1 innings, he posted a minuscule 1.97 ERA/2.76 FIP and a 0.89 WHIP in 2020. His HR rate was a low 0.5 per nine and his K/9 was 8.6 (fairly high considering the NPB features a lot less strikeouts).

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Over his lengthy 8 year career, he has posted a 2.34 ERA and 1.03 WHIP, showing it’s time for him to seek more of a difficult competition that’s found in the US with MLB. The 6″1 righty features a low to mid 90’s fastball, as he uses both a 4 and 2 seamer. He also features a low 80’s 12/6 curve, a mid 80s slider and an occasional cutter. Like many Asian pitchers, he likes to move the ball around a lot.

So what would it cost to take a change on a guy like Sugano? Well, you need to negotiate with the player and organization for a 30 day window. In that time any MLB team could negotiate for his services. If a team signs the player, they have to pay the organization the player comes from as well. The player gets his contract and the team gets 20% of the first $25M on the deal, 17.5% on the next and 15% on the additional cost. For example a $65M deal would require 20% for the first, 17.5% for the second and 15% on the remaining $15M.

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Sugano had back issues in 2019 but returned to form in 2020, showing he can only work through the problems. He is a talent that a team like the Mets could take a chance on, that wouldn’t cost as much as other options. Also the cost wouldn’t all come on the payroll (just the salary of the player). A team led by a new owner who has money to spend, could be interested in going this way. Pitchers from the Asian leagues have had mixed success, however the top pitchers (Darvish and Tanaka) have been well worth the payment they got. Sugano could be an option for the Mets to bolster their rotation.

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Photo from Kyodo News