Chicago Cubs: Team likely a long shot for Japanese lefty Yusei Kikuchi

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 17: Yusei Kikuchi pitcher for the Aces in action during the Australian Baseball League match between the Melbourne Aces and the Brisbane Bandits at Melbourne Showgrounds on November 17, 2011 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 17: Yusei Kikuchi pitcher for the Aces in action during the Australian Baseball League match between the Melbourne Aces and the Brisbane Bandits at Melbourne Showgrounds on November 17, 2011 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs: Who is Yusei Kikuchi?

Kikuchi is currently a starting pitcher for the Saitama Seibu Lions of the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization (NPB). The 27-year-old is in his seventh season with Saitama. Kikuchi also happens to be from the same high school as Ohtani.  The Lions recently began the official posting process so teams could be able to negotiate for his services.

Last season, Kikuchi started 23 games, pitching to a 14-4 record with a 3.08 ERA. The season before that, the lefty did major damage finishing 16-6 with a 1.97 ERA. Throughout his career, Kikuchi has a 2.81 ERA in 158 games. Across the previous three seasons, Kikuchi has pitched to a more than respectable 2.51 ERA, and 497 strikeouts over 494.1 innings.

As far as his many accolades are concerned, Kikuchi won the Pacific League ERA award and finished as the Pacific League wins leader in the same season, 2017. Last season, Kikuchi’s name was called to the NPB All-Star Game. It was the third selection of his career.

Kikuchi wanted to begin the process nearly a decade ago in 2009. That year, Kikuchi attempted to bypass the amateur draft for the NPB and instead make his declaration to sign with a big league team. Because of the stipulations, Major League Baseball has in place, Kikuchi would have had to instead declare himself as an international free agent. At the time, he was expected to go first overall in the Japanese player draft.

As the Saitama Seibu Lions have agreed to the posting of Kikuchi, he avoids the chaotic circus of attempting to return to Japanese baseball had he left on his own volition. After leaving without a team’s consent, a player receives a three-year ban from the league. However, if the team has agreed upon the posting, the player can leave penalty-free.

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