Saturday, January 6, 2018

Padres reach agreement with Makita to help their bullpen

The San Diego Padres reached an agreement with Kazuhisa Makita on Saturday morning (Early Sunday in Japan time). Makita will make an estimated $4 million over two years, according to Jon Heyman

Makita's salary will more than double the ¥100 million (less than $1 million) he made with the Saitama Seibu Lions in 2017. When contract negotiations came after 2016, he turned down a multi year offer from the Lions to take a one year deal, making himself a potential domestic free agent and having leverage to exercise his FA option if the Lions chose to not post him. 

In the past, Makita said it was his dream to play in the major leagues and now he will get the opportunity for a small wage in MLB terms. The Lions will receive a small posting fee as compensation from the Padres, which will likely be less than $1 million. 

The Padres already re-signed Craig Stammen and hope Makita can add more depth to their bullpen unit. They already have Brad Hand as a closer, though if Makita impresses the coaches, they could do a shuffle.

At age 33, he lacks the upside that any young pitcher has, but the Padres hope he can deliver as a stop gap in the short term. Makita can look no further than the front office for inspiration, as his fellow countryman Takashi Saito was "washed up" at age 36 when he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

His career was revived in 2007 and he continued pitching in MLB until 2012. His playing career ended in NPB in 2015, but he earned a championship ring in 2013 when playing with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. Today, Saito works in the Padres front office and should be ideal goal for any pitcher who comes to MLB in their 30s.

Makita becomes the first Japanese Lions player to come stateside since Hiroyuki Nakajima in 2013. However, Nakajima failed to play a major league game after a poor spring training and became buried in the Oakland Athletics AAA and AA farm teams through 2014.

Wade LeBlanc was the last Lions pitcher to play in the states after a dismal 2015 and knows San Diego very well. Let's hope they kept in touch he can show Makita the ins and outs of the city.

From a Lions standpoint, it's understandable that they lost their top middle reliever and that fans will be frustrated Makita will no longer be with the team. However, take this signing as a good thing in the long run, as everyone who loves the Lions can be Padres fans when he dons their uniform.

Having NPB players come to MLB and finding success brings credibility to the league. While we won't say NPB is more talented, we want the game to be understood from more than just a North American bubble. The 2017 World Baseball Classic was all but a success, even if Japan didn't win the tournament. Team USA gave credit to the team where it was due as Tomoyuki Sugano and Kodai Senga put on a show in Dodger Stadium.

When a major league team wants you, that means you're good in their eyes and strengthens the morale of the team. From an MLB standpoint, the Lions are only known for Daisuke Matsuzaka and the baggage of a $51 million posting fee that came with it. While Kazuo Matsui contributed, there hasn't been anyone that got more attention than Dice-K which has drawn reduced posting fees and leverage for major league teams.

While the Padres are not our favorite MLB team, we're thrilled he'll get an opportunity in San Diego and the pressure won't be heavy. No one will ridicule the Padres if Makita doesn't pan out since it will cost only $4 million plus the posting fee. San Diego isn't New York and the team can be patient if they need to.

Most importantly for Makita, he'll get to reach his dream of playing in the majors. That alone is the story no one can take away from him.


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