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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