Kikuchi Meetings: Day Two
On Day Two, Yusei Kikuchi met with the eight remaining NPB teams, thus concluding the NPB portion of his schedule. Word is that he’s still 50-50 on which league he chooses, and that should he choose NPB, he doesn’t have a preference on which team he plays for.
Here’s what Kikuchi had to say about the meetings: “I like baseball talk, so it was easy to have the talks. There are a lot of fans in Japan, and solid player development systems. In the case I play in Japan and am drafted, I would give my best effort to any of the 12 teams.”
And his manage, the omnipresent Hiroshi Sasaki: “Each team has it’s own system for maturing individuals. To wait until the last moment before the draft to answer would be an annoyance to the teams, so we should give a decision as quickly as possible after the MLB meetings end.”
Here’s what each of the teams had to say about the situation, again summarized and paraphrased by me:
Chunichi: “Even if there’s only a 1% chance, we’re still going to take the plunge on that arm. We’ll go every day (to see him) until the end of March (when the signing period ends).” Chunichi Chief Scout Hayakawa quoted in Sponichi.
Nippon Ham: “He had extreme interest in things like ‘would Darvish coach me technically?” GM Yamada quoted in Sponichi. Nippon Ham also told Kikuchi “they will select him with their first pick” to which Kikuchi replied “thank you very much”.
Rakuten: “He’s a franchise player. By all means, we want him to play in Tohoku. We’re still a young team, so let’s make team history.” Rakuten team representive Yoneda quoted in Daily Sports.
Yokohama: Yokohama’s first pick was thought to be slugger Yoshitomo Tsutusgo, but chief scout Horii has revealed that Kikuchi is still in the picture. Quoted in Nikkan Sports, Horii told Kikuchi “we haven’t decided on Tsutsugo as our first pick.”
Yakult: “By all means we want this treasure of the baseball world to perform in Japan.” Unattributed quote from the Daily Yomiuri.
Hiroshima: The Carp are reportedly out on Kikuchi and will take Seiho HS righty Takeru Imamura, the pitcher who beat Kikuchi’s Hanamaki Higashi at Koshien, with their first pick.
SoftBank: Like the Carp, the Hawks are looking at Imamura as an option for their first pick, and have mostly been quiet on Kikuchi. SoftBank has plenty of pitching, so Tsutsugo probably makes the most sense for them.
Conventional American logic would dictate that Yokohama BayStars, who finished last yet again this year, should have the first overall pick in the draft. That’s not how it works in NPB. For an explanation, please see Ryo’s draft primer.
It’s being reported that as many as ten teams could choose Kikuchi in the first round, which break the previous record of eight set in 1989 by Hideo Nomo. I’d be little surprised if that happens, but if he stays in Japan he’ll have plenty of suitors. There’s really no downside to selecting Kikuchi in the first round (unless you really want Hisayoshi Chono); even if a majority of teams choose him, only one will get to his rights, and most of the other good players will still be on the table.
After a one-day breather, Kikuchi will begin meeting with MLB teams on the 20th. It’ll be interesting to see if the teams come armed with financial offers in hand. We already know what the NPB teams are restricted to a max bonus of about $1m, incentives of about $500k, and first year salary about $150k. We can reasonably expect MLB clubs to outbid NPB here, but by how much and under what terms remains to be seen. This is where the saga really starts, and we’ll learn more over the next few days.
edit – corrected number of teams that drafted Nomo.