Roki Sasaki Rumors: Request To Be Posted For MLB Free Agency

Yoshinobu Yamamoto is the latest Japanese star pitcher to make the jump from Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) to MLB as he decides on his next team, but Roki Sasaki could find himself doing the same soon.

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

While NBP players traditionally end up waiting around seven years to attempt the jump to Major League Baseball, Sasaki may be looking to move over sooner.

According to Sponichi Annex and posted to Yahoo Japan, Sasaki has requested to be posted this offseason.

The deadline for players to be posted this offseason is December 15, which makes a move unlikely. However, it could be a possibility next offseason.

The Marines do not have to honor his request, or even post him next year under normal circumstances. MLB posting system rules require a foreign-born player to wait until they are 25 or have played six seasons in a foreign professional league to become unrestricted free agents and not subject to contract limitations.

However, Shohei Ohtani decided to come over at 23-years-old, which limited his contract with the Angels to a rookie deal with an international signing bonus of roughly $2 million. He was able to do that due to an option in his original contract with his NBP club.

According to Jack Harris and Jorge Castillo of the L.A. Times, Sasaki may have that same clause in his deal:

Ohtani had the option to leave for the majors whenever he wanted included in his contract with Nippon Ham. Sasaki is thought to also have that clause in his deal with Chiba Lotte.

The Dodgers heavily scouted Sasaki during his 2023 season with a belief he may be posted this offseason, and they are believed to be highly interested in the right-hander.

Sasaki’s fastball has reached 103 mph and he possesses one of the best splitters in the world. He missed two months because of an oblique injury but still went 7-4 with a 1.78 ERA, 0.75 WHIP and 135 strikeouts in 91 innings across 15 starts.

When Sasaki pitched a full season in 2022, he sported a 2.02 ERA and collected 173 strikeouts against 23 walks over 129.1 innings pitched. Despite his elite stats, Sasaki is still a prospect with room to develop, which makes his ceiling so high.

Roki Sasaki could impact Dodgers’ search for starting pitching

Sasaki’s imminent free agency could limit the Dodgers’ pursuit of a front-line starting pitcher beyond Shohei Ohtani this offseason.

The Dodgers are looking to add at least two starting pitchers this offseason, 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.

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