Japanese left-hander Yusei Kikuchi, who was posted to Major League Baseball two weeks ago, arrived in Los Angeles to a throng of reporters but did not comment on his possible move to the United States.
Kikuchi has until 5 p.m. on Jan. 2 to negotiate a deal with any of the 30 major league teams or else he will have to return his Nippon Professional Baseball club, the Seibu Lions.
While attending negotiations, Kikuchi will train at a facility owned by his high-profile agent, Scott Boras, who negotiated former Lion Daisuke Matsuzaka’s blockbuster contract with the Boston Red Sox in 2006.
Before traveling to the United States, Kikuchi said that he “will narrow down the choices after hearing the opinions of my agent and Japanese staff.” He is expected to return to Japan early in the new year, even if he reaches an agreement before the end of 2018.
(Yusei Kikuchi speaks to reporters at Narita airport before leaving for Los Angeles)
One of Japan’s top pitchers this year, Kikuchi has garnered the attention of several MLB teams, with the San Francisco Giants and Seattle Mariners showing interest at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas.
The 27-year-old Kikuchi has been thoroughly scouted by major league clubs since he was pitching for Iwate Prefecture’s Hanamaki Higashi High School, where the Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani later played. He signed with the Lions out of high school after they won his rights in the 2009 draft.
This season, Kikuchi helped Seibu finish with the best record in the Pacific League when he went 14-4 and struck out 153 batters over 163-2/3 innings. He has a career record of 73 wins, 46 losses and one save with a 2.77 ERA.
The Lions posted Kikuchi at his request earlier this month, starting the 30-day negotiating window. Kikuchi will not be eligible for international free agency until 2020 and needed the Pacific League club’s approval to move via the posting system.
Under the current system, a team posting a player to the majors will receive a fee based on an agreed percentage of the value of the contract, bonuses and incentives.
Posting fees equal 20 percent of the first $25 million, 17.5 percent of the next $25 million and 15 percent of the remainder. In addition, the NPB team posting a player will receive 15 percent of incentives earned, and options and bonuses paid.