Kodai Senga Receiving Contract Offers Of Five Or Six Years

Image credit: Kodai Senga (Koji Watanabe/Getty Images)

SAN DIEGO—The market for top Japanese pitcher Kodai Senga is heating up.

Senga has already received multi-year contract offers of five or six years, his agent Joel Wolfe said Tuesday at the Winter Meetings. Wolfe said the number of teams interested in Senga is “more than six and less than 12” and that there is a chance Senga signs before the end of the calendar year.

Senga, 29, is the latest top pitcher from Japan making the move to MLB. The 6-foot righthander went 11-6, 1.94 with 156 strikeouts and 49 walks in 144 innings for Softbank last season and has been coveted by MLB teams for years. He exercised an opt-out in his contract after last season and is a free agent who does not have a deadline to sign or require a posting fee.

Wolfe said Senga visited “six or seven” cities on a recent tour of the U.S. and received presentations from teams about their plans for him.

“He knows that in order to be a very successful pitcher here, because he wants to win a Cy Young here, he wants to win the World Series, to be successful that has to, as he says, step up, step up, step up,” Wolfe said. “So he wanted to know ‘How can a team help me do that?’ ”

Senga’s fastball sits 94-97 mph as a starter and can reach 99-101 mph in short bursts. His best pitch is a swing-and-miss forkball nicknamed the “Ghost Fork” for how it disappears on hitters. Like many Japanese pitchers, he has a deep arsenal and also throws a cutter, slider and curveball.

Most evaluators consider Senga a potential No. 3 starter in the majors who can dominate with his fastball and forkball while improving his breaking pitches once he starts throwing them more in the U.S. Others note his delivery can be effortful at times and that his strike-throwing can be scattered and consider him more of a No. 4.

Wolfe said the teams Senga has met with so far consider him a potential No. 2 or 3 starter, and they’ve demonstrated that belief with the length of the contracts that have been extended to him.

“He may start at one spot in the rotation and then develop into another spot because in Japan, they pitch once a week. So they may decide to ease him into a heavier workload as time goes on,” Wolfe said. “But I think he’s viewed right now as a number two or three starter depending on the team. There’s some teams who right now have two aces, and other teams that don’t have another No. 1 starter where he could compete to be the ace.”

Wolfe said Senga’s priority is to join a “team that wants to win, right now” and that he is not necessarily prioritizing cities with large Japanese populations or cultural familiarities. The New York Post’s Jon Heyman reported the Mets, Giants, Red Sox, Cubs, Padres and Rangers are among the teams pursuing Senga.

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