Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Pacific League RBI leader Hideto Asamura to file for free agency

Kyodo

Saitama Seibu Lions second baseman and Pacific League RBI champ Hideto Asamura will file for domestic free agency, the club said Monday.

The 27-year old was the Lions’ third pick in the 2008 draft out of high school. He set career highs this season with 104 runs, 32 home runs and 127 RBIs while batting .310, and served as team captain as Seibu won its first league championship since 2008.

After hearing the news, the Osaka-based Orix Buffaloes quickly held up a hand for Asamura, an Osaka native who attended local powerhouse Osaka Toin High School.

“I think we would move toward acquiring him,” said Hiroyuki Nagamura, Orix’s director of baseball operations. “He’s a wonderful player. For the sake of the team and his hometown Osaka, we hope he comes back and lends us his ability.”

If Asamura moves on, he will be the third high-profile Lions player to leave in recent years. In 2014, ace Hideaki Wakui joined Lotte, while his successor as Seibu’s No. 1 starter, Takayuki Kishi, joined Rakuten in 2017.

Players signing while in high school are eligible to file for domestic free agency after eight years of first-team service time, while those turning pro after leaving high school only need seven years.

International free agency requires nine years of service time for both groups. Any player filing for free agency is ineligible to file again for three years.