Kodai Senga is officially a free agent

No more waiting on Japanese ace Kodai Senga: it’s officially a free agent. Here he hopes the Chicago Cubs will be on the phone with him right away. Heck, I wish someone was on a plane to Japan to start the flirting process.

I feel I should always hedge discussions on Senga by noting that many of you are probably aware that there is an imbalance between My level of excitement about the cubs chasing Senja (High) and the expected/expected impact level (medium turnover, with some upside). I think there’s a chance Senga things will translate into a front-end kind of spinning in MLB, but he’s very likely to settle down as a middle-spin guy. So why am I so excited for the Cubs to chase after him? Since he’s a 30-year-old who has been dominant in Japan at times, that wouldn’t cost money from the rotation, whose addition would open the door for the Cubs to have a major impact on the rotation with another addition.

In other words, I really want the Cubs to add a couple of quality appetizers this season. If they start with Senga, I think it’s still very reasonable that they could also add one of the best starters for free factors, or trade for an effect arm. Those would be two guys who would be in the Marcus-Stroman class or better. That’s a pretty good rotation when you start talking about Justin Steele as number four. I just think Senga is the guy the Cubs can get who wouldn’t shut the door on any other addition to starting the bowler. So I want them to have it.

And again, it’s not as if Senga doesn’t come up with an upside. It’s just hard to anticipate a move to MLB, obviously.

Jim Allen covers baseball in Japan as well as everyone else, so when he does an exploratory report on a player, I listen. The first thing you’ll notice is the range of injury issues Senja has dealt with over the past two years – elbow tightness, calf issues, and ankle injuries – and that will give you pause. as it should. It will likely affect the price, however, as it cuts both ways.

The second thing you’ll notice is the stadium arsenal discussion, which is confusing. Senga has a fast ball that averages around 96 mph, but he doesn’t drive it very well. He has a thorn ball (splitter) which has been the most whiffing separator in the league, and one of the most valuable pitches overall. He also throws in the cutter and slider a bit, both of which are solidly arranged, too. So these stadiums obviously play outside of Fastball really well.

Allen classifies the four tones as such:

Fast Bowl: 50
Split: 70
Cutter: 60
Slider: 60

So you’re talking about a four-layer mix, where each grade is above average, and three of them are plus. And the one that isn’t plus is a fastball at 96 miles per hour. I think the cubs can have some fun with all of that.

I also think, while you wouldn’t ever sign Kodai Senga to be loyal, this pitch combination could create a nice playing field if things really went sideways for a start. Obviously it depends on the price tag, but even if you score him on a four-year, $60 million deal (or whatever), it won’t immediately become a disaster to sign if he ends up being an impact mitigator in MLB instead of a mid start Rotation. Not perfect. Not the goal. Just maybe a decent floor.

As for the roof, that may depend on health and whether the MLB team can improve the pitch mix, sequence and order. Oh, you know, the always uncertain transition to facing MLB hitters instead of NPB hitters. But the bones are there to have a successful man like Stroman, even if the style is somewhat different.

I don’t expect we’ll see a Senga signing ASAP, largely because that kind of transition in life is going to require a lot of exploration, discussion, tours and all that good stuff. Here’s hoping the Cubs can wine and eat Senja on that front, and we hope Seiya Suzuki has good things to say about his move to the states with the Cubs, specifically.

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