Yomiuri Giants right-hander Tomoyuki Sugano, one of the most decorated pitchers in Nippon Pro Baseball, is expected to be posted for Major League Baseball teams within the next two weeks, sources told Jon Morosi of MLB.com.
A Giants executive confirmed to Kyodo News that the team will let Sugano go to MLB if he wishes to do so. Sugano is still debating whether MLB is "ideal" for him right now, and he's considering other pressures involved, including the league's challenges in playing through the pandemic, a source told Kyodo. He and the team will discuss his options over the coming days.
Sugano is a well-known name in American baseball circles despite spending his entire career in Japan. MLB clubs have been scouting him for several years in hopes that he'd be made available, according to Morosi. Before turning professional, he threatened to jump directly to the majors if he was drafted by an NPB team other than the Giants, according to Jim Allen of Jballallen.com.
The 31-year-old would bring a stellar resume to the majors. Sugano's compiled a 101-50 record with a 2.34 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 1,216 strikeouts over eight seasons with Yomiuri while averaging just 1.8 walks per nine innings. He's a two-time winner of the Eiji Sawamura Award (Japan's equivalent of the Cy Young) and was named Central League MVP in 2014.
Sugano also impressed at the 2017 World Baseball Classic when he allowed one unearned run over six innings while striking out six - including Nolan Arenado three times - in the semifinals against the United States.
After struggling in 2019 due to a back injury, Sugano returned to form this year and was runner-up for the Sawamura Award. He helped the Giants to a second straight Central League pennant by posting a 1.97 ERA and 0.89 WHIP with 131 strikeouts across 20 starts while allowing only eight home runs.
Yomiuri - Japan's most popular and iconic baseball team - has usually resisted participating in the MLB-NPB posting system. Last winter, Shun Yamaguchi became the first Yomiuri player to ever be posted; Yamaguchi signed with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Sugano will have 30 days to negotiate and sign with an MLB team once he's posted. Whoever signs him must pay Yomiuri a portion of the contract. If he doesn't reach an agreement in MLB, the Giants will retain his rights for 2021 before he becomes an international free agent next winter, according to Allen.