Yoshinobu Yamamoto is one of the top free agent pitchers in the world available to Major League Baseball clubs this offseason. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
By Conor Ligouri
World Baseball Network
The 2023 Nippon Professional Baseball offseason is off to a hot start. Less than a week has passed since the Hanshin Tigers became champions for the first time in 38 years, and already players are on the move. Let’s look at the latest news from Japan’s top professional baseball league.
RHP Yoshinobu Yamamoto Likely to be Posted Soon – According to sources close to Jon Morosi of MLB Network, Orix Buffaloes starting pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s posting window will open “soon,” and possibly within the next week.
Yamamoto is considered one of, if not the best, pitcher in Nippon Professional Baseball and should be highly coveted by MLB teams this winter. Yamamoto is a five-time NPB All-Star and has won three consecutive pitching Triple Crowns. He had a minuscule 1.21 ERA and 169 strikeouts in 164 innings in 2023 with Orix.
Once the Orix Buffaloes post Yamamoto, MLB teams will have 45 days to negotiate a contract with him.
Orix Buffaloes Pitcher Sachiya Yamasaki Elects Free Agency – Left-handed starting pitcher Sachiya Yamasaki of the Orix Buffaloes will exercise his free agency rights and seek a new contract during the offseason. The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, Tokyo Yakult Swallows, and Yokohama DeNA BayStars are interested in Yamasaki, according to Yahoo News Japan.
“As a baseball player, I wanted to hear the evaluation of myself from other teams, including Orix,” Yamasaki told Yahoo News Japan.
The 31-year-old has recorded a 39-45 record in 175 career games, all with the Orix Buffaloes. He posted a 3.25 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 130.1 innings for the Buffaloes in 2023, who were recently defeated by the Hanshin Tigers in seven games in the 2023 Japan Series.
Seibu Lions Deny RHP Kona Takahashi’s Posting Request – The Saitama Seibu Lions have denied right-handed pitcher Kona Takahashi’s request to be posted this winter, according to Yakyu Cosmopolitan. It is anticipated he will attempt to sign with a Major League Baseball team next offseason.
“My dream is also important, but I have a strong desire to win next year no matter what,” Takahashi told Sports Nippon, a Japanese daily newspaper. “I want the challenge as soon as possible.”
Takahashi’s name is not widely discussed in the United States media, but he has been a reliable arm with the Lions for quite some time. He posted a career-low 2.20 ERA with the Lions in 2022 and had a 2.21 ERA in 23 starts this season.
Yahoo News Japan reports Takahashi has hired Joel Wolfe as his new player agent in preparation for the 2024 offseason. Wolfe is an executive vice president and managing executive of Wasserman Media Group and is the current agent of MLB stars Giancarlo Stanton, Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, and Yu Darvish.
Orix Buffaloes Trade RHP Taisuke Kondoh to Yomiuri Giants for Cash Considerations – The Orix Buffaloes have traded right-handed pitcher Taisuke Kondoh to the Yomiuri Giants for cash considerations. Kondoh struggled in just 12 games this season for Orix, posting a 5.11 ERA and walking 8 in 12.1 innings.
Kondoh underwent Tommy John Surgery in 2020 and did not return to the mound until 2022. The 32-year-old returned in 2022 with exceptional numbers, allowing just 25 hits and seven earned runs in 30 innings.
The Giants will be just the second NPB team Kondoh has played for in his career. Outside the NPB, he played for Japan in the 2017 Asian Baseball Championship in New Taipei City, Taiwan.