On Monday, MLB Network Insider Ken Rosenthal reported that the Philadelphia Phillies are expected to pursue front-line free agent starter Patrick Corbin. However, that is not the only pitcher they are interested in.
Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports reported on Monday night that the Phillies, Los Angeles Dodgers, and San Diego Padres are among the teams interested in Japanese left-hander Yusei Kikuchi.
The Seibu Lions of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball League agreed to make the 27-year-old available through the posting system. If you are not familiar with the posting system, it allows Kikuchi to freely negotiate a contract with an MLB team.
Furthermore, NPB teams must make player postings between the dates of Nov.1 and Dec. 5 and allow a 30-day negotiation window. Heyman also mentioned in his report that Kikuchi hired BorasCorp to represent him.
This season with the Lions, Kikuchi posted a record of 14-4 with an ERA of 3.08 to go along with 153 strikeouts in 163.2 innings pitched.
Those are very impressive numbers for the 27-year-old, who missed some time this year with left shoulder stiffness. If the Phillies were able to outbid both the Dodgers and Padres for Kikuchi’s services, it would give them a huge boost to their starting rotation.
Last season, Aaron Nola showed why he was the ace of the staff and in consideration for the N.L. Cy Young award. The 24-year-old starter racked up a career-high 17 wins, 2.37 ERA and 224 strikeouts in 212.1 innings pitched.
However, outside of Nola, veteran Jake Arietta struggled during various points of the season, while back-end starters Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez were inconsistent.
The Phillies hoped to have Jerad Eickhoff full-time this past season, but he missed most of the year with an injury. Nevertheless, he did make three appearances (started in one game) and should be ready to go in 2019.
With question marks surrounding both Pivetta and Vince Velasquez in regards to next season, Kikuchi could slide in as the Phillies’ third starter. Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com reported earlier this season that numerous MLB scouts think that the Seibu standout could become a No. 2 starter in the majors.
That would be a great look for the Phillies, especially if they do not win the Corbin sweepstakes. Also in Morosi’s report, those same scouts said that Kikuchi has a fastball, which has been clocked at between 92-94 mph and can reach 96.
Over the next few weeks, it should be interesting to see how the market eventually pans out for Kikuchi. He will have to wait for the bigger name free agent starting pitchers to be signed, but once that happens, it is open season.