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Left-handed pitcher with 11 wins captured the heart of the last-

Free agents (FA) do not necessarily follow money. Even if they have no choice but to prioritize the contract period and amount terms, they attract attention as a team that can show its presence and a team that recognizes the value of its players. Left-handed pitcher Sachiya Yamasaki (31), who became a free agent from the Orix Buffaloes, is expected to wear the Nippon Ham Fighters uniform.

However, Nippon Ham is not the team that offered him the best conditions. They are not as powerful as Orix, who won the Pacific League for three consecutive years. Under coach Tsuyoshi Shinzo (51), they ranked last for two consecutive years.

Nippon Ham, based in Hokkaido, is not a team with good financial resources. So far, no free agent starting pitcher has been recruited. Last winter, main hitter Kensuke Kondo (30) became a free agent and left. He put all his effort into staying, but was unable to beat the Softbank Hawks, who had spent 7 years and 5 billion yen (about 43.7 billion won).

Moreover, it is in the same Pacific League as Orix. Most experts believed that Yamasaki, who has excellent hitting ability, was likely to transfer to the Central League, where he can hit without a designated hitter. Nippon Ham, which used Tokyo Dome as its home along with the Yomiuri Giants, moved its base to Sapporo, Hokkaido in 2004.

This season, he started 23 games and recorded 11 wins, 5 losses, and an ERA of 3.25. Yamasaki had a 'career high' by recording his first double-digit wins in his ninth year as a professional. Although he fell short of the required number of innings by pitching 130⅓ innings, he was tied for second place in the Pacific League in most wins after team junior Yoshinobu Yamamoto (25).

Since the annual salary is 60 million yen, there are no players compensated for FA transfers. Six teams, including his original team Orix, rushed to take on Yamasaki. Yamasaki is said to have recently met with officials from six clubs, including Softbank, Yakult Swallows, Yokohama Baystars, Yomiuri Giants, and Nippon Ham, and heard the terms of recruitment.

Softbank, a 'big deal', offered more than 1.2 billion yen (about 10.5 billion won) for 4 years, Yomiuri offered 1 billion yen (about 8.7 billion won) for 4 years, and Nippon Ham and Orix offered about 800 million yen (about 7 billion won) for 4 years.

It is known that

According to Japanese media, Yakult coach Shingo Takatsu, Yokohama coach Daisuke Miura, and Yomiuri coach Shinnosuke Abe personally met with Yamasaki and persuaded him. Yamasaki said, "I never imagined something like this would happen. I think it would be a nuisance if it dragged on for too long, so I'll make a decision quickly."

Still, he had his heart set on Japanese ham.

When he declared free agency, he said he would prioritize teams where he could pitch consistently as a starting pitcher. Nippon Ham can fully give him this opportunity. They are even more desperate as they have ranked last for two years in a row.

Nippon Ham's pitcher with the most wins this season is Yuki Uwasawa (29). The ace with 9 wins declared his entry into the major league through a posting. One of the pillars of the last place team is missing. The three pitchers who played more than 20 games as a starter this year were Uwasawa and left-handers Takayuki Kato (31) and Hiromi Ito (26). Kato and Ito won 7 games together.

If Yamasaki, who achieved 11 wins, maintains his performance this year, he could become the 1st or 2nd starter at Nippon Ham. In Orix, 'super ace' Yamamoto and left-handed ace Hiroya Miyagi (23) led the league's third consecutive win with a 'one-two punch'.

Nippon Ham has a deep connection with Yamasaki, directly or indirectly. His father, Akihiro Yamasaki (62), played for Nippon Ham as a catcher and served as a coach. He was with Nippon Ham for a total of 14 years. Also, catcher Dorai Fushimi (33) is a senior who has been with Orix for a long time.

Nippon Ham actively supported Ohtani's 'dual sword style', in which he played both as a pitcher and a hitter. Be open to the pitcher's hit

I have it. Kota Yazawa (23), who was selected as the first pick in the 2023 draft, is also attempting to hit twice.

Yamasaki, who played as an infielder and pitcher as an amateur, has strengths in hitting. During his high school days, he hit a tournament-high 12 hits at the Koshien Tournament. In his professional career, he has 6 hits in 22 at-bats and a batting average of .273 with 3 doubles. He even stood by as a pinch hitter. Last year, he hit a timely hit in the Japan Series against Yakult. Yamasaki's role as a hitter at Nippon Ham may increase.
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Sunday, November 26, 2023

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