Right-handed starter Tomoyuki Sugano, a two-time Sawamura Award winner (roughly Japan’s version of the Cy Young), has opted-in to his contract for the 2022 season with the Yomiuri Giants of the Nippon Professional Baseball league, according to Yahoo! Japan.
Sugano was “posted” by Yomiuri last offseason for the consideration of Major League Baseball teams. Various clubs showed interest in him, including the Boston Red Sox, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, and Toronto Blue Jays. Yet Sugano’s 30-day posting window came and went without him reaching an agreement with any team. He subsequently returned to the Yomiuri rotation as part of a multi-year deal that contains opt-outs each winter if he wants to pursue a job in the majors.
Sugano’s decision to stay in Japan was made easier by recent developments in MLB. MLB’s owners recently enacted a lockout, the league’s first work stoppage since 1994-95. Teams are not able to sign players under the lockout, leaving Sugano in the cold. Earlier this week, fellow NPB star Masahiro Tanaka opted-in to his own contract; industry speculation had Tanaka attempting to return to the majors this winter.
Sugano, 32 years old, has posted a career 2.41 ERA and a 4.53 strikeout-to-walk ratio over parts of nine NPB seasons. Most recently, he compiled a 3.16 ERA and a 3.96 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 20 appearances this past season. A Baseball America scouting report from last winter noted the following about his game:
(His) slider is perhaps the best in Japan and he can control it to both sides of the plate. It’s a devastating offering when he buries it inside against left-handed hitters. Sugano’s velocity was slightly up in 2020 and he also induced more swinging strikes. He upped his splitter usage and also threw a cutter, curveball and shuuto. His control was as strong as ever.
Sugano and Tanaka aren’t the only NPB players with MLB ties impacted by the lockout. Outfielder Seiya Suzuki, posted by his club in late November, has had his 30-day negotiating window “paused” for the duration of the lockout.
Meanwhile, longtime big-league infielder Freddy Galvis was reportedly nearing an agreement to join the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks as of Saturday, thus making him the first MLB player to go abroad rather than wait out the work stoppage.