NPB Hot Stove: Yamasaki Leaves Buffaloes For Nippon-Ham Fighters

Shota Imanaga, shown here with Japan pitching against Mexico at Kyocera Dome Osaka on March 9, 2019 in Osaka, Japan, has been posted for MLB teams to sign. (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images)

By Conor Liguori
World Baseball Network

This Nippon Professional Baseball offseason is highlighted by the posting process for pitching superstar Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Still, there are plenty of other headlines to watch as teams make moves during the offseason.

Yokohama DeNA BayStars Post LHP Shota Imanaga Posted – Left-handed pitcher Shota Imanaga was posted on Monday by the Yokohama DeNA BayStars. Major League Baseball teams will have 45 days to negotiate a contract with Imanaga. The deadline for the pitcher to reach an agreement with a team is Thursday, January 11, at 5 p.m. ET.  

Imanaga was the starter and winning pitcher in the 2023 World Baseball Classic final against the United States for Japan, and finished the NPB season with a 7-4 record and a 2.80 ERA. He led the Central League with 174 strikeouts in 148 innings.  

Imanaga throws a four-seam fastball, changeup, slider, curveball, two-seam fastball, and a cutter. According to Yakyu Cosmopolitan, Imanga’s average fastball velocity was 91.7 mph this past season, and he threw it 52.5 percent of the time.  

Sachiya Yamasaki Signs With Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters – Former Orix Buffaloes starting pitcher Sachiya Yamasaki has signed a four-year, 800 million yen ($5.3 million) contract with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.  

Yamasaki, 31, has spent his whole career with the Orix Buffaloes up until this point. In 176 career games, the lefty has posted a 3.85 ERA with 431 strikeouts in 681 innings. He was an NPB All-Star in 2023, going 11-5 with a 3.25 ERA in 23 games. Yamasaki’s father, Akihiro, played and coached with the Fighters from 1990-04.  

Yamasaki leaves the Buffaloes, who are also expected to lose starting pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto to Major League Baseball. Yamasaki should slide right into the starting rotation for the Fighters, who could be without Naoyuki Uwasawa’s 2.96 ERA next season.  

Jon Heyman of the New York Post reported early Monday afternoon that Uwasawa had been posted. Like Imanga, Uwasawa has until Thursday, January 11 at 5 p.m. ET to reach an agreement with an MLB team. Yamasaki should be heavily relied upon by the Fighters if Uwasawa signs.  

Golden Eagles Pitcher Hayakawa to Play for Perth Heat – Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles pitcher Takahisa Hayakawa will play in the Australian Baseball League for the Perth Heat, reports Ben Smith of The West Australian. Hayakawa recently represented Japan in the Asia Professional Baseball Championship, where they defeated South Korea 4-3 in the finals.  

Hayakawa went 6-7 with a 3.44 ERA this season for the Golden Eagles and made his NPB debut in 2021. He finished third in the 2021 Pacific League Rookie of the Year Award voting, going 9-7 with 127 strikeouts in 137.2 innings.  

In the 2023 Asia Professional Baseball Championship, Hayakawa threw five perfect innings against the Australian national baseball team. Japan won the contest 10-0.  

Hayakawa is anticipated to debut with the Perth Heat in their upcoming series against the Canberra Cavalry.  

Fighters and Buffaloes Trade Pitchers – The Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters and Orix Buffaloes exchanged right-handed pitchers this past Friday. The Fighters have sent Kosei Yoshida to the Buffaloes for Yuta Kuroki.  

Yoshida, just 22 years old, made his NPB debut in 2019 and has a career 6.23 ERA. He spent most of the 2023 season with the Fighters’ Eastern League team and had 46 strikeouts in 60 innings.  

Kuroki, 29, had a 6.58 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 26 innings for the Buffaloes this season. He pitched in a combined nine games from 2019-20 due to Tommy John Surgery and has been unable to find a groove on the mound since. Kuroki has shown promise in past seasons, as he was selected for the 2017 NPB All-Star Game.  

Additional Recent Transactions (2023 Statistics/Team)  

– Saitama Seibu Lions Sign C Ginjiro Sumitani (1 HR, 10 RBI, .519 OPS/Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles)  

– Hiroshima Carp Sign INF Matt Reynolds (22 HR, 90 RBI, .865 OPS/Triple-A Louisville)  

– Hiroshima Carp Sign 3B/OF Jake Scheiner (30 HR, 105 RBI, .878 OPS/ Triple-A Tacoma)  

– Orix Buffaloes Sign RHP Andres Machado (50 IP, 5.22 ERA, 43 SO/Washington Nationals)  

– Orix Buffaloes Sign OF Ryoma Nishikawa (9 HR, 56 RBI, .760 OPS/Hiroshima Carp)  

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