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Lions no strangers to posting system

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While some NPB teams, such as the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, may scoff at the posting system, don’t count the Seibu Lions among them.

The Lions have used the posting system more than any other NPB team so far, and put pitcher Kazuhisa Makita up for bid just this season. Makita, who was 53-49 with 25 saves in seven seasons with the Lions, was acquired by the San Diego Padres on Saturday, who will pay Seibu a posting fee of $500,000.

Makita is the fifth player Seibu has made available through the posting system. The first came in 2005, when the team posted pitcher Shinji Mori, who was Makita’s pitching coach from 2016 until his passing due to organ failure in June of 2017. Mori was signed by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, but never appeared in an MLB game after injuring his shoulder during spring training.

The team used the system again in 2006, famously posting ace Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was coveted by a number of MLB teams. With no limit on the posting fee at the time, the Boston Red Sox bid $51.1 million (which eventually went to the Lions) for Matsuzaka’s negotiating rights and signed the pitcher for $52 million.

Pitcher Koji Mitsui was posted twice, at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009. He drew no bids either time and returned to Seibu for the 2009 season. The Lions made shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima available in 2011, after denying his request in previous seasons. Nakajima was forced to return to Seibu after failing to reach a deal with the New York Yankees, who had won his negotiating rights.

Overall, the Lions have used the system six times (with Mitsui being posted twice), the most by an NPB team. They are followed by the Hiroshima Carp, the first team to post players, and the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, who have each put players up for bid four times.

The Hawks and Yomiuri Giants are the only two clubs yet to employ the system. Neither club is a proponent of posting and have denied requests from players (such as former Giants pitcher Koji Uehara and current Hawks closer Dennis Sarfate) in past years.

Seibu’s embrace of the system is perhaps a good sign for MLB fans (and maybe a bad one for Lions supporters) hoping to see talented lefty pitcher Yusei Kikuchi move to the majors after the 2018 season.

The wait goes on

With Kazuhisa Makita signing with the San Diego Padres on Saturday, three Japanese players have made the jump from NPB to MLB this offseason.

Makita and two-way star Shohei Ohtani, moving from the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters to the Los Angeles Angels, each transferred via the posting system, while the Arizona Diamondbacks signed former Orix Buffaloes pitcher Yoshihisa Hirano as a free agent.

That leaves free agent pitcher Hideaki Wakui as the last man standing. Wakui, a 31-year-old right-hander, filed for free agency after the 2017 season in hopes of finding a home in the majors. Wakui has an agent, but thus far has not signed with a team.

Wakui is 123-112 and has 37 saves (30 coming in 2012) and a career 3.45 ERA in 13 seasons with the Seibu Lions and Chiba Lotte Marines.

The pitcher will reportedly re-sign with Lotte if he can’t find an MLB job. Japanese teams generally begin spring camp on Feb. 1, so Wakui may be facing crunch time to make a decision, about continuing his pursuit of a place in North America or returning to Japan, in a few weeks.

Still no takers

Shuichi Murata, like Hideaki Wakui, is still waiting on his phone to ring. Murata was cut by the Yomiuri Giants after the 2017 season and hasn’t received an offer from another NPB team yet.

The 37-year-old infielder told Sports Nippon on Sunday he is prepared to keep training and waiting until July, shortly before the deadline to add players, for a team to make him an offer before figuring out his next step.