Chiba Lotte Marines right-hander Hideaki Wakui could make himself available on the free-agent market to pursue a long-held dream of playing in the major leagues, a club executive said Wednesday.
“We’ve known how he has always felt (about wanting to play in the majors). He’s an indispensable player to the team but he does have the right (to declare free agency) and it is his dream,” the executive said.
The Chiba-based club is expected to negotiate an offer regardless and hopes to sign the 31-year-old for a fifth season.
Wakui went 5-11 with a 3.99 ERA in 25 games for the Marines this season.
He started his career in 2005 with the Seibu Lions as their first-round draft pick, and moved to Lotte in 2014 when he became eligible for domestic free agency.
This year he re-earned his free-agent option, which now also includes international rights.
He won the prestigious Sawamura Award in 2009, and led the Pacific League in wins three times — in 2007, 2009 and 2015. He has a 123-112 record with 37 saves and an ERA of 3.45 in 377 games over his 13-year career in Japan.