Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
The Los Angeles Dodgers committed more than $1 billion to sign Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto this offseason, but they may already have their eyes on another Japanese star.
The Dodgers heavily scouted Roki Sasaki during his 2023 season with the Chiba Lotte Marines of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). He went 7-4 with a 1.78 ERA, 0.75 WHIP and 135 strikeouts in 91 innings across 15 starts last year, missing two months because of an oblique injury.
Sasaki also played for Team Japan in the World Baseball Classic and further added to his profile when his fastball reached 103 mph during the summer.
Sasaki just turned 22 years old this past November and is expected to be posted to MLB free agency at some point within the next few years. According to Yakyu Cosmopolitan and reported by the Daily Gendai in Japanese, the Dodgers will strongly pursue the right-hander when he becomes available:
The Los Angeles Dodgers are reportedly strongly committed to pursuing RHP Roki Sasaki when he is posted.
They scouted Sasaki since high school and have continued to monitor him in NPB while they had scouts in Japan for Yoshinobu Yamamoto.https://t.co/Lc4lJzyOgF
— Yakyu Cosmopolitan (@yakyucosmo) January 5, 2024
Sasaki may have requested to be posted this offseason, or he may have told the Marines of his intent to pitch in MLB within the next few years. Either way, he was not posted before the December 15, 2023, deadline.
MLB posting system rules require foreign-born players to have completed six professional seasons or be at least 25 years old in order to be eligible for free agency without any restrictions.
That means Sasaki likely won’t make the jump to MLB until after the 2026 season. However, there’s also a belief he may have a clause in his contract that allows him to leave the NPB for MLB whenever he requests, similar to the deal Ohtani had.
If posted prior to turning 25, Sasaki’s earning potential would be capped much in the same way it was for Ohtani when he left NPB at just 23 years old. Ohtani wound up receiving a $2.3 million signing bonus from the Los Angeles Angels.
Roki Sasaki did not impact Dodgers’ search for starting pitching
An earlier report suggested that Sasaki’s imminent free agency could limit the Dodgers’ pursuit of a frontline starting pitcher beyond Ohtani this offseason.
That wasn’t the case as the team signed Yamamoto to a record-setting contract and acquired Tyler Glasnow from the Tampa Bay Rays before signing him to an extension.
Even with the aforementioned additions, the Dodgers seem determined to sign Sasaki when he is posted by the Marines.
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