Dodgers Rumors: Roki Sasaki’s Impending Free Agency Could Impact Search For Starting Pitcher

Yoshinobu Yamamoto is set to become the latest Japanese star pitcher to make the jump from Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) to MLB for the 2024 season, but in just a few years, Roki Sasaki could find himself doing the same.

Sasaki recently turned 22 years old and has already emerged as one of the most talented pitchers in Japan. The right-hander burst onto the scene while playing for Team Japan in the 2023 World Baseball Classic and had another excellent season as the ace of the Chiba Lotte Marines.

The Los Angeles Dodgers were among the teams that heavily scouted Sasaki during the 2023 season in preparation for the possibility of the Marines posting him at some point.

While it remains to be seen when that will happen, Sasaki’s imminent free agency could limit the Dodgers’ pursuit of a front-line starting pitcher beyond Shohei Ohtani this offseason, per Jorge Castillo and Jack Harris of the L.A. Times:

Sasaki’s looming jump to the United States could have implications on the Dodgers’ choices this winter. It could, for example, discourage them from committing to a top-tier starting pitcher other than Ohtani in free agency.

The Dodgers are looking to add at least two starting pitchers this offseason, even in the event they are able to sign Shohei Ohtani, but Sasaki is someone high on their wishlist and they may prefer to look ahead to acquiring him rather than committing top dollars to a free agent such as Blake Snell.

The Dodgers have been linked to several starters in free agency, including two of the better options in Snell and Yamamoto, both of whom are expected to command significant contracts.

If the Dodgers are confident that Sasaki will be posted in the next year or so, they could pass on signing one of the top-tier starters and add someone like Lucas Giolito on a short-term contract instead. They could also address their rotation via the trade market to add someone with a cheaper contract, such as Dylan Cease or Tyler Glasnow.

But with L.A. in need of immediate upgrades and no timetable on when Sasaki will be posted, the team should still look to make multiple splashes this offseason.

When could Roki Sasaki be posted?

MLB posting system rules require foreign-born players to have completed six professional seasons or be at least 25 years old in order to be eligible for free agency without any restrictions.

Considering Sasaki has completed just three NPB seasons and is only 22 years old, he doesn’t figure to be made available for MLB teams until after the 2026 season.

If posted before that point, Sasaki’s earning potential would be capped in the same way it was for Ohtani when he left NPB at just 23 years old. Ohtani wound up receiving a $2.3 million signing bonus from the Los Angeles Angels.

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