The SF Giants have been connected to Tomoyuki Sugano in free agency. The Yomiuri Giants ace is reportedly weighing his final MLB offers but has one major concern.
According to a Hochi News report (original report written in Japanese), right-handed pitcher Tomoyuki Sugano, who was posted in early December, has flown to the United States to meet with his agent and consider final offers. The SF Giants are reportedly “in pursuit” of Sugano and could be waiting for his final decision before pursuing other available starting pitchers.
However, per Hochi News’ report, Sugano is still deciding whether to come stateside or return to Japan next season. With the COVID-19 virus continuing to overwhelm medical facilities throughout the United States, the Yomiuri Giants ace is reportedly concerned about the risks of leaving a country that has much more effectively managed the pandemic.
Sugano has until January 7th to sign with an MLB team. Otherwise, he will return to Yomiuri’s rotation next season. Under posting rules, if he does agree to a contract, the team that acquires him will have to pay Yomiuri an amount equal to roughly 20% of Sugano’s guarantees. Per ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel predicted Sugano would land a two-year, $24 million contract. Such a deal would cost a team $28.8 million, $24 million to Sugano, and $4.8 million to the Yomiuri Giants.
While not a particularly cheap option, Sugano is considered by many to be the best starting pitcher not already playing in MLB and projects as a mid-rotation arm. He has won the Most Valuable Player and two Sawamura Awards (the NPB’s equivalent of the Cy Young) since debuting in the highest level of Japanese baseball in 2013. In 2020, Sugano’s managed an elite 1.97 ERA across 137.1 innings (20 starts) with 131 strikeouts, just 25 walks, and 97 hits. Over his career, Sugano maintains a career 2.34 ERA over 1362 innings (197 games) with 1216 strikeouts, 265 walks, and 1145 hits.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only added another wrinkle to an already difficult decision for players like Sugano. In an interview, Tomoyuki Sugano told the Hochi News, “I want to make a choice without regrets” (translated from Japanese). The SF Giants hope that will lead him to sign with the Orange and Black.