Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano told reporters Sunday he turned down offers from major league clubs because none of them were 100% convincing, but added that returning for another season in Japan didn’t leave him without regret. “I think I needed just a little more time,” he said.
Sugano’s agent Joel Wolfe revealed that six teams made offers to sign the right-hander, and the final decision was made with two minutes left on the posting system clock. Earlier this month, outfielder Haruki Nishikawa’s deadline to sign with a major league team also elapsed, meaning he remains a member of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.
On Tuesday, the Seattle Mariners announced that former pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma has rejoined the team as a special assignment coach reporting directly to general manager Jerry Dipoto. He will begin his new role, which will include scouting talent from Japan, during spring training.
As for trade in the opposite direction, the Yomiuri Giants have agreed to a contract with longtime major league first baseman and designated hitter Justin Smoak. The Tokyo-based Giants will sign the 34-year-old as a free agent from their namesakes in San Francisco on a two-year deal believed to be worth $3 million per season.
Joining Smoak will be slugging first baseman and outfielder Eric Thames, who rejuvenated his MLB career with three monster seasons in South Korea. Thames also poised to return to Asia after agreeing to terms with the Giants last month.
And finally, the 2021 season will mark the Yokohama BayStars’ 10th anniversary since DeNA took over as its owner, with the team determined to continue growing its fan base. The BayStars used to be known for swaths of empty seats at their Yokohama Stadium home, but their popularity has skyrocketed thanks to efforts on and off the diamond to attract fans, explains Kaz Nagatsuka.