Japan’s Latest Pitching Sensation Would Fit Perfectly in Twins Rotation

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The Minnesota Twins need another top-3-type pitcher to insert into their starting rotation before the 2021 season begins. If they can find one, re-sign Nelson Cruz and then fill a few holes in the bullpen and on the bench, the Twins will be a leading contender to win the American League.

Nobody is expecting them to sign Trevor Bauer, but Minnesota’s been mentioned in the same breath as just about every FA pitcher directly underneath him. And that pool of 2nd-tier pitching options just got bigger today. Tomoyuki Sugano is a Japanese pitcher who’s been dominating the NPB League for most of the last decade. Now, at 31 years old, he’s coming to the MLB.

The Twins make too much sense as a landing spot…

Sugano’s shit is nasty and his accuracy is pristine. His older age (31) puts the Minnesota Twins in the running because he won’t cost $20+ million per year. You can pay Jake Odorizzi $12 million to come back or you can pay Tomoyuki the same thing (see below). He brings all the talent and hope that a top international signing normally would, without the price tag and 7-year contract.

The Twins are also only one of 3 teams in Major League Baseball who already have a Japanese pitcher on their starting staff, with Kenta Maeda.

Sugano is the same age as I am (31). If you shipped me off to Japan to blog about sports there, I’d sure feel a lot more comfortable knowing there was another American already on my blogging team, to help me get accustomed to my very new surroundings. Maeda loves the organization and has obviously had success here too, finishing runner-up in 2020 AL Cy Young voting.

Maybe he’d even help with recruiting Sugano?

So far, I haven’t seen the Twins linked to the 2-time NPB Sawamura Award (Japan’s Cy Young equivalent) winner yet, but teams have until January 7 to throw their hats in the ring.

Here is more detail on exactly what Japan’s Tomoyuki would cost the Twins (per ESPN)

Sugano is a reliable fourth (give or take) starter, so think bulk innings with an ERA around 4.00. His deal would probably be three years (and $30-something million) in a normal year (and still could be, as the top of the starting pitching market has been stronger than expected), but I’m hedging a bit, projecting two years. With the uncertainty inherent in a player with no MLB experience and leverage to return to Japan, there are higher odds of significant performance bonuses, creative options, opt-outs of arbitration, guaranteed post-contract free agency and other unusual contractual terms that make guessing guaranteed money trickier. At these terms, the club that signs Sugano would pay $4.8 million to the Yomiuri Giants on top of $24 million to Sugano.

ESPN MLB Insider: Kiley McDaniel

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan