Friday, November 17, 2017

Kazuo Matsui returns to the Seibu Lions


The Seibu Lions announced on Friday that they signed Kazuo Matsui to a ¥40 million, one year deal. He will also function as a player/technical coach, which is an added position to the coaching staff.

Matsui, 42, returns to the Lions for the first time since 2003. He had MLB stints with the New York Mets, Colorado Rockies and Houston Astros until 2011, where he was with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles through 2017.

With the Lions, he was a consistent .300 hitter and had at least 20 home runs in four seasons. Matsui won a Japan Series with the Eagles in 2013, but his peak season in Sendai was 2014, where he hit .291.

The Lions gave him No. 7, his old number from 1995-2003 as it has been vacant since the start of 2016. While it's unknown what his role will be as a player, he will likely be a spell outfielder and retire a Lion after the 2018 season. He can easily pinch hit if necessary. 

Other notes: 

-The Seibu Lions announced their coaching staff with minor changes to the pitching coaches. Fumiya Nishiguchi was promoted to the ichi-gun to serve alongside Yoshihiro Doi after the late Shinji Mori was lost.

-The Lions officially added two ni-gun pitching coaches with Ming-Chieh Hsu and Kento Sugiyama. Hsu was with the team as a player for nearly a decade and both men have served as pitching coaches in Taiwan's CPBL. 

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Report: Seibu Lions to renovate MetLife Dome in three year project


The Saitama Seibu Lions announced on Wednesday that they will renovate the exterior of MetLife Dome once again. Reports are saying this project will take three years to complete in 2021 and it will cost ¥18 billion (about $180 million).

Seibu chairman Takashi Goto announced there will be an extra lounge behind home plate, while the outside behind the outfield will have plenty of festivities, including a larger shopping center. Other additions include new food stalls and a major upgrade on the ni-gun stadium next door known as Seibu II.

Earlier this week, it was announced that the player dormitories near Seibu II would be upgraded as requested by the players themselves. They were not changed since being built in the first years as Seibu Lions. Construction is scheduled to begin in December. More photos can be and here and here.

This will be the first major renovation to MetLife Dome since Daisuke Matsuzaka's posting money removed the Astroturf, changed the scoreboard and added bullpen box seats. At the start of 2016, the Lions upgraded the turf once again.



The 2018 season will mark the 40th year since being Seibu Lions and moving to Tokorozawa from Fukuoka. The Lions went through more than a decade of futility failing to recover from a Black Mist scandal, which led to a dark time in the 1970s. When the team moved to then-outdoor Seibu Stadium, it took only four years to win a Japan Series championship after their first year in 1979.



When the Lions host their April game in Tokyo Dome, they'll be wearing the bright blue uniforms worn from 2004-2008.

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Report: Nogami files for free agency, Sumitani to stay


The Saitama Seibu Lions enter the offseason with drama in free agency. On Monday morning, reports came out that Ryoma Nogami has filed for free agency.

Nogami, 30, was a starter with the Lions for several years and stayed at the ichi-gun since he was drafted out of the industrial leagues in 2008. A reliever in 2009 and 2010 with an injured season in 2011, Nogami was a starter from 2012-2017. 

Last season, he had a career year going 11-10 with a 3.63 ERA and logging 144 innings, his most since 2013. His 11 wins matched his career high from 2013 as well. Nogami made about ¥50 million last season and he is penciled in as a type B free agent, meaning any team who signs him would result in compensation for the Lions. 

Here are the options and links we're hearing about in regards to what happens to Nogami next:

Sign with the Hanshin Tigers

The Tigers have been linked to Nogami since the end of the regular season. It's common for the Tigers to always have a connection to any player in the media, but this one seems like serious interest. It's likely they would win a bidding war if it were with the Lions.

With the Tigers' bullpen being good, their rotation had their share of ups and downs after Randy Messenger was injured. Takumi Akiyama had a strong year, Atsushi Nomi won't get any younger despite rebounding well and then there's the wild Shintaro Fujinami, who spent majority of the year in ni-gun.

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Sign with the Yokohama DeNA Baystars

The Baystars rotation was their strength in 2017, but it can be solidified with Nogami on the back end as they've drawn interest. Shota Imanaga, Haruhiro Hamaguchi and Kenta Ishida are all young and up-and-coming pitchers who are expected mainstays. Joe Wieland proved to be a solid signing and Shoichi Ino is the veteran. They just drafted Katsuki Azuma for even more youth.

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Sign with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks

The Hawks were rumored for Nogami as he is a Fukuoka native, but their rotation depth is already deep. Adding Nogami wouldn't hurt them, but this one is all speculation on the media's part. If he were to sign in Fukuoka, the Lions could chose a player compensation option rather than just the money. 

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Remain with the Lions

A statement from Nogami's camp said that all options are possible. However, this would be a loyalty thing more than the money. It's likely the team will give a hard offer and not go any higher. If another team beats it and Nogami is in it for the money, he's gone. 

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Meanwhile, Ginjiro Sumitani announced he will remain with the Lions for 2018. The report said the options were limited and there was debate on the Lions offering a two year deal or not. It's likely that Sumitani takes a one-year deal and could test the market after next year with Masatoshi Okada and Tomoya Mori in the Lions plans.

Sumitani, 30,  has been with the team since 2005 and has played in 12 seasons, entering his 13th year.

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The Lions have been known the let pitchers walk in free agency in the past. There have been many high profile free agency departures going as far back as Kimiyasu Kudo in 1994. Other pitchers to leave in free agency include Kiyoshi Toyoda (2005), Chieh-Ming Hsu (2011), Kazuyuki Hoashi (2011), Hideaki Wakui (2013) and most recently, Takayuki Kishi last year. 

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2018 Seibu Lions salary list


Contract negotiations for all NPB teams in this month of November. Rather than sign the dotted line on a multi-year deal, salaries can go up or down depending on how a player's performance was the previous season. Some will take paycuts for a poor year, while a great year will bring a raise. 

Here is a collection of all the Saitama Seibu Lions reported salaries for 2018. All figures are estimates and not exact based on reports. This is an ongoing list which will be updated as more reports come in.  

A handful of Ichi-gun or ni-gun stats are included, depending on who is there. If a player has participated with the ichi-gun in 2017 at any point, only those stats will show. A few guys will get a raise just for playing with the ichi-gun, if it happened more than the previous year. For hitters, we've put the slashline of AVG/OBP/SLG

^ - Raise

|v| - Paycut

= - Same wages

N = New player

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Pitchers: 

Tsubasa Kokuba: ¥5 million |v| by 500K (19 ni-gun games, 1-2, 42.2 IP, 3.80 ERA)

Ichiro Tamura: ¥7.5 million ^ by 500K (12 ichi-gun games, 0-0, 14.1 IP, 6.91 ERA)

Keisuke Honda: ¥7 million = (5 ichi-gun games, 0-0, 7.2 IP, 4.70 ERA, one spot start)



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Catchers:

Komei Fujisawa: ¥5 million = (63 ni-gun games, 119 PA, 101 AB, .139/.237/.208)

Shota Nakata: ¥5.8 million = (76 ni-gun games, 193 PA, 165 AB, .230/.308/.303)

Hitoto Komazuki: ¥5.1 million = (76 ni-gun games, 176 PA, 160 AB, .231/.290/.431)

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Infielders:

Kazuki Kaneko: ¥5.5 million = (103 ni-gun games, 284 PA, 254 AB, .205/.257/.252)

Haruka Yamada: ¥5.5 million = (106 ni-gun games, 404 PA, 364 AB, .245/.293/.346)

Note: Yamada was called up during the season and on the ichi-gun roster for a week, but didn't play as a emergency infielder

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Outfielders:

Shohei Suzuki: ¥6 million = (101 ni-gun games, 343 PA, 289 AB, .280/.364/.332)

Daisuke Togawa: ¥5 million = (52 ni-gun games, 181 PA, 155 AB, .271/.370/.426)

Kazuo Matsui: ¥40 million (Free agent)

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Rookies:

P Kaima Taira: ¥6 million, ¥40 million signing bonus (4th round draft pick out of HS)

C Masato Saito: ¥4 million, ¥3.5 million signing bonus (2nd round ikusei pick out of college)

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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

2018 Seibu Lions season begins in Sapporo against the Fighters


The Saitama Seibu Lions 2018 season will start on Friday, March 30 against the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. This will be the second year in a row the Lions go to Sapporo for Opening Day. 

Here are links to the full schedule for the Seibu (西武) Lions:

March 2018 

April 2018

May 2018

June 2018

July 2018

August 2018

September 2018

October 2018

Here are some bonus notes and irregular locations to the 2018 Seibu Lions schedule: 

-For the first time in franchise history, the Lions will play a home game in Tokyo Dome on April 17 against the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. 

-The Lions will be playing Kitakyushu (North Kyushu, closer to the water separating Yamaguchi and Fukuoka prefectures) on the road against the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks on both April 24 and July 18. They played one game there last season.  

-The Lions will be the road team in Tokyo Dome against the Fighters for a two games series from 5/15-5/16. Prior to 2004, the Fighters shared Tokyo Dome with the Giants before they moved to Sapporo. They did this last year and the Lions swept them. 

-The Lions will play in Hotto Motto Stadium in Kobe against the Orix Buffaloes on 5/19, 5/20 and for a three game series from 9/11-9/13.   

-On 5/29, the Lions will be playing the Hiroshima Carp in the city of Miyoshi, Hiroshima. While Hiroshima city itself is on the coast, Miyoshi is in the northwest direction and inland from the water. This will be the first chiho interleague game for the Lions since they played the Yomiuri Giants in Koriyama, Fukushima in 2015. 

-On 7/5, the Lions will play the Fighters in Hakodate, the southern tip of Hokkaido. A shinkansen is capable of reaching Hakodate from the Tokyo if anyone in Kanto wanted to make that trip without a significantly long train ride. This breakthrough of reaching Hokkaido happened in 2016.  

-The All-Star games will be played in Kyocera Dome and in Kumamoto prefecture on 7/16 and 7/17 respectively. It was announced last year that Kumamoto would host an All-Star game as relief for the 2016 earthquake that hit the area. 

-For the third straight year, the Lions will be playing a home game in Maebashi, Gunma on 8/28 against the Rakuten Eagles. 

-The traditional three home games in Omiya will be on 5/8 (vs Hawks), 6/12 (vs Swallows) and 8/29 (vs Rakuten). By playing in Omiya against the Eagles, they will go back to back chiho games like last year against the Fighters with Maebashi and Omiya in the same series.

-On 9/4 and 9/5, the Lions will be playing the Fighters in Asahikawa, Hokkaido. This city is two hours northeast of Sapporo and is the second largest in Hokkaido. It's known for a zoo. 

-The regular season is scheduled to end in Sapporo on October 2.  

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Keep in mind that any of these chiho games that are outdoors could be lost if it's rained out. In the event that happens, that game goes back to the traditional team's home stadium. Last year, the Lions only had two rained out games all season and both of them were chiho in Koriyama and Okinawa, respectively. The makeup games would be in September in Sendai against Rakuten and MetLife Dome against the Marines. 

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Sunday, November 5, 2017

Japanese Baseball Names 101: Seibu Lions literal translations

Ken Togame's surname means "Ten Turtles" and the Lions marketed a special cap.

Every family name / surname / last name has a meaning. Some are more basic than others. Even the Seattle Mariners capitalized on this by marketing Hisashi Iwakuma's name with a bear cap.

That being said, while Kuma is the correct sound (like a homophone) for bear in Japanese, his surname "Iwakuma 岩隈" means shadow or corner of a rock. The kuma 隈 character is not the same as the bear kuma 熊. That being said, it's not a bad or guilty attempt by the Seattle marketing crew.

After playing with many kanji reading sites and more, we successfully converted all names into English. While some kanji have multiple meanings, we chose what made sense to put out in this piece. Inspired by our Softbank Hawks English equivalent, here is the Lions literal roster of 2017.

To make sure things are not redundant, we set 田 to paddy, 野 to field and 原 to meadow. If some guys have the same family name, we've translated their first name as a bonus. When seeing that kanji, the last name is first, first name is last.

Italicized names are players who are not returning for 2018. 

*Could be gone

Pitchers:

Kazuhisa Makita 牧田*: Shepherd paddy

Tatsushi Masuda 増田:  More paddies

Tatsuya Oishi 大石: Big stone

Yusei Kikuchi 菊池: Chrysanthemum pond/lake

Kona Takahashi 髙橋 光成: High bridge, Light growing

Shinsaburo Tawata 多和田: Many harmonious paddies (Note: 和 is the same harmony character that all businesses, teams and work places uses in needing to have Wa)

Takuya Toyoda 豊田: Rich paddy

Ryoma Nogami 野上*: Field top

Ken Togame 十亀:  Ten turtles

Shunta Nakatsuaka 中塚: Center mound

Shogo Noda 野田: Field paddy

Katsunori Hirai 平井: Flat well

Seiji Kawagoe 川越: River surpass

Ryohei Fujiwara 藤原: Wisteria meadow

Hirotaka Koishi 小石: Small stone (pebble)

Yosuke Okamoto 岡本: Hill base

Toshihiro Iwao 岩尾: Boulder slope

Yasuo Sano 佐野: Assistant field

Tadasuke Minamikawa 南川: South river

Yusuke Tamamura 玉村: Jewel village

Ichiro Tamura 田村: Paddy village

[Makoto] Aiuchi 相内 誠: Inside aspect, Truth (Aiuchi has his first name registered on his jersey)

Tomomi Takahashi 髙橋 朋己: Tall bridge, Companion self

Keisuke Honda 本田: Book field

Shota Takekuma 武隈: Warrior shadow

Kentaro Fukukura 福倉: Lucky warehouse

Tsubasa Kokuba 國場: Country place

Isamu Sato 佐藤: Assistant wisteria

Naoaki Matsumoto 松本: Pine tree base

Koki Fujita 藤田: Wisteria paddy

Tatsuya Imai 今井: Now well (Well as in the noun, not the adverb/adjective)

Chun-Lin Kuo (Kaku) 郭: Enclosure

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Catchers:

Tomoya Mori 森: Forest

Ginjiro Sumitani 炭谷*: Charcoal valley

Masatoshi Okada 岡田: Hill paddy

Tatsuyuki Uemoto 上本: Top origin

Hitoto Komazuki 駒月: Horse moon (Interesting note that 駒 [koma] also refers to the knight piece when playing chess or another board game involving a horse)

Shota Nakata 中田: Center paddy

Komei Fujisawa 藤澤: Wisteria swamp

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Infielders:

Hideto Asamura 浅村: Shallow village

Sosuke Genda 源田: Root paddy  (源 [gen] can refer to the origin or root of something)

Hotaka Yamakawa 山川: Mountain river

Takeya Nakamura 中村: Center village

Daichi Mizuguchi 水口: Water mouth

Shogo Kimura 木村 昇吾: Tree village, Rising one's own

Yuji Onizaki 鬼﨑: Demon peninsula

Naoto Watanabe 渡辺: Crossing border

Kyohei Nagae 永江: Long bay

Nien Ting Wu 呉: Giver

Haruka Yamada 山田: Mountain paddy

Kazuki Kaneko 金子 一輝: Gold child, One shine

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Outfielders:

Yuji Kaneko 金子 侑司: Gold child, Director with an urge to eat

Shogo Akiyama 秋山: Autumn mountain

Takumi Kuriyama 栗山: Chestnut mountain

Shuta Tonosaki 外崎: Outside cape (cape as in headland, not the cloak)

Yutaro Osaki 大﨑: Big peninsula

Fumikazu Kimura 木村 文紀: Tree village, Sentence chronicles

Masato Kumashiro 熊代: Beat substitute (Fun fact: Shiro is a homophone for the color white (白).  Unfortunately the kanji shows he's not a polar bear.)

Shotaro Tashiro 田代: Paddy substitute

Shogo Saito 斉藤: Adjusted wisteria

Ryo Sakata 坂田: Slope paddy

Shohei Suzuki 鈴木: Bell tree

Daisuke Togawa 戸川: Door river

[Aito] Takeda 武田 愛斗: Military paddy, Love Big Dipper (Takeda has his first name registered)

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Manager:

Hatsuhiko Tsuji 辻: Intersection

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Bonus: Foreigners

Just for gags, we also reverse translated the meaning of all foreign imports since 2015. Here is what their names would look like in kanji. (Kuo and Wu were already included above as they'll be with the team next year.)

Ernesto Mejia メヒア: Kyuseishu [救世主] . Mejia's name means "Messiah" or "Savior" in latin/greek origin.

Brian Schlitter シュリッター: Namerahito [滑人] Schlitter's German ancestry to his name refers to sliding, or sleds. In this case, Namerahito would be "sliding person"

Brian Wolfe ウルフ: Okami [狼]. Wolfe has an has an easy to understand name with the word wolf in German.

Frank Garces ガルセス: Wakaikuma [若熊]. Garces is a derivative of the Spanish name Garcia, which can refer to a young artz bear.

Stephen Fife ファイフ: Fibuokoku [フィブ王国]. Fife's name is of Scottish origin, a derivative of Fib.  Fife is a county or kingdom in Scotland today, with Fib being the original name. Fib kingdom would be the most accurate.

Now because Fib can also mean a lie or fake, this can also read as Niseokoku [偽王国] which would mean "False Kingdom".

Alexis Candelario キャンデラリオ: Sosoku [蝋燭]. Candelario's name has Spanish origin referring to candles.

C.C. Lee 李 リ: Plum (read as sumomo or Lee/Ri)

Wade LeBlanc ルブラン: Shiro [白]. LeBlanc, of french origin would mean "the white".

Andy Van Hekken バンヘッケン: Saku [柵]. In Dutch, Van Hekken means "fences"

Anthony Seratelli セラテリ: Teri [照理]. Couldn't find a true definition of Seratelli's name, but he was often called "Terry" テリ in Japan.  Using the kanji, 照理 means sunshine reason.

Esmerling Vasquez バスケス: Karasu [烏]. Vasquez is a derivative of Velasquez in Spanish and Portuguese. Velasquez comes from belasco, which means raven or crow. The 烏 is slightly different from the bird kanji 鳥 (tori).

Miguel Mejia ミゲル・メヒア:  Kyuseishu, Doyokami [救世主 同様神]. We already mentioned Mejia through Ernesto, but here's an addition with Miguel. Since Miguel is a Spanish cognate of Michael, the name means "like god".  

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Miscellaneous: 

Seibu 西武: West warrior. The 西 is the kanji for West, often pronounced "Nishi" with it's main reading alone. This can also translate as West arms or military.

Hanshin 阪神: Osaka/Kobe, Slope god. When the train company that owns the Hanshin Tigers came up with their name, it merged characters from the two major markets of Osaka and Kobe. The 阪 is a slope from Osaka 大阪 (Big slope) while the 神 is god, as Kobe 神戸 is read as god's door.  SakaKami would be the kun reading, but the On reading becomes "Hanshin" 

Hiroshima 広島: Broad island. Hiroshima is on a southwest area of Honshu, Japan's largest island. 

Chunichi 中日: Middle of the sun. Easy to remember that 日本 is Nippon or Japan. Nagoya is viewed as the middle of Japan, hence abbreviating to日. Obviously it's not the epicenter when you count all the southern islands, Okinawa and more, but it is the heart of Honshu. Chunichi's newspaper used the On readings like Hanshin when coming up with their name so it doesn't say something like "NakaHi".  

Rakuten 楽天: Optimism. When Rakuten came up with their name, it has the combination of comfort 楽 and the sky 天. Interestingly enough, 楽 has music meanings.  Also Tohoku 東北 refers to the Northeast, though going literally it is saying east-north.  

Yomiuri 読売: Read selling. Yomiuri is the largest media conglomerate in Japan, the NY Times equivalent. It's a selling read and newspaper. Kyojin 巨人 also refers to a large/gigantic person. 

Chiba 千葉: Thousand leaves. For those who've seen the movie Spirited Away, the 千 in Chiba can also read is Sen, which is why Chihiro's name was cut off with only the 千 taken.

Fukuoka 福岡: Fortune Hill. Can also read as Lucky mount. 

Hokkaido 北海道: North sea circuit. Hokkaido is the most northern part of Japan. 

Tokyo 東京: East capital. At one point in history, Kyoto 京都 (Capital metropolis) was the capital of Japan until 1868. 

Yokohama 横浜Horizontal/Sideways Seacoast. Yokohama's location is south of Tokyo and is a port touching the Pacific Ocean. The anime movie "From up on Poppy Hill" takes place in Yokohama.  

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If there's any better translations or suggestions, we're open to editing or adding to this if something needs more accuracy.  

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Saturday, November 4, 2017

Report: Kazuhisa Makita to be posted



In what has been an offseason of uncertainty, the Saitama Seibu Lions will likely post Kazuhisa Makita per reports on Saturday. 

Makita, who turns 33 this week, is slated to be a domestic free agent after seven years of service time. Last offseason, he turned down a two-year contract in order to sign a one-year deal making him closer to free agency, giving him the right to exercise his free agent option. 

"We plan to give him the green light as we are moving in that direction," said Seibu Lions general manager Haruhiko Suzuki in a statement. "He has a strong desire [to move to the majors through the posting system]. We haven't heard the outcome [of the negotiations between NPB and MLB]. We will wait for that, then submit paperwork."

Originally a second round draft pick in 2010, Makita spent his rookie year as a closer and starter. Through 2012-2015, he was in the rotation before the Lions tried closing with him in 2015. 

When 2016 began, the Lions made him the fireman reliever to go multiple innings and become a change of pace, where he recorded a career low 1.60 ERA in 78.2 IP. Last year, new manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji had Makita mostly as an 8th inning setup pitcher where he had a 2.30 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 62.2 innings of work. 

Makita openly expressed his desire to want to play in MLB as early as last year. He was a member of Samurai Japan during both the 2013 and 2017 WBC as well as the 2015 Premier 12. Makita also saw the exhibition series with the MLB Stars after the 2014 exhibition season. 

The previous agreement between NPB and MLB with a $20 million cap on a posting fee expired this past month. Both sides must come to an agreement on what could be a new pricing. It's likely that the posting fee ceiling will be even less than before. Makita will be a cheap option for organizational depth if an MLB team wants a reliever. 

From a Lions standpoint, their backs were against the wall where Makita had the leverage to exercise his domestic free agent option if he were to be disgruntled. They will likely get little compensation if a team bids and signs him, but it's better than going to another NPB team and facing him frequently if it were in the Pacific League. 

The best case scenario for the Lions is if no team bids on Makita, similar to how many players in the past did not draw a fee or one that's too low.

Makita would be the second player posted in the offseason after Shohei Otani assuming that both sides come to an agreement. He's nowhere close to Otani's caliber, but could be an easy flyer. Other international free agents this offseason with no posting fee required include Hideaki Wakui and Yoshihisa Hirano. 

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