Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Report: Rakuten Eagles to sign Takayuki Kishi

After filing for free agency several weeks ago, it appears the big question for Takayuki Kishi is finally answered.

The Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles are expected to sign Kishi to a four year contract on Thursday. His contract is estimated to be worth ¥1.6 billion (about $16 million) in total. If this was averaged out, it would make about $4 million in 2017, which is expected to be higher than Ernesto Mejia's salary.

Kishi, who will be 32 in December, is a Miyagi prefecture native as he went to high school in Natori, Miyagi and attended Tohoku Gakuin University in Sendai before he was drafted by the Lions in 2006. He is essentially returning home to where his baseball career started.

He is the final Kibouwaku Pick in Seibu Lions history, as they would forego the first three rounds of the University draft that year in order to obtain his rights.

The Lions had no chance to retain Kishi with an offer that Rakuten made. They had a set offer at four years with the financial terms undisclosed, but it was well-under the ¥1.6 billion that Kishi will make with the Eagles.

Kishi put himself on the NPB map as the 2008 Japan Series MVP, where he would win two critical games, including a Game 6 where he finished a must-win outing in long relief. He also threw a no-hitter in 2014, the last one to date in NPB.

With Kishi gone, the Lions have five open roster spots on their 70-man roster. They will have some big holes to fill with several young pitchers in the fold. This includes Yusei Kikuchi leading the way, followed by three straight first round draft picks in Kona Takahashi, Shinsaburo Tawata and a future projected ace in Tatsuya Imai.

The Lions will now have to choose the compensation with Kishi being a Type A free agent. They can either select 80% of Kishi's salary from Rakuten in cash, or 50% of the salary plus an unprotected player of their choice from the Eagles roster. The Eagles will protect 28 players from being selected.

Last time the Eagles signed a free agent which requires compensation, Toshiaki Imae was picked up from the Chiba Lotte Marines. The Marines would select the cash option with no player deemed worthy enough to pickup.

Kishi is the third player to leave the Lions in the Type A or Type B range. Previously it was Yasuyuki Kataoka, which the Lions would take Ryota Wakiya as compensation from the Yomiuri Gaints. Hideaki Wakui also signed with the Chiba Lotte Marines and the Lions took Taiki Nakago.

For us, this news was somewhat expected, but it also hurts. The Lions management refused to increase their offer when negotiating with Kishi before he filed for free agency. Historically, they don't put value on the ace pitcher like they do with an everyday hitter. It was a foregone conclusion he would leave when offered more money than what Mejia will be making.

The rotation will have to show some balance, but Kishi was also injured for two months in both 2015 and 2016. In the last two drafts, the Lions selected 12 pitchers combined. Unfortunately for Lions fans, there will be big shoes to fill with Kishi leaving for his hometown.


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