It was no secret that the Padres were interested in Japanese megastar Shohei Otani. They were one of the finalists to land the OF/RHP, but eventually he signed with the Los Angeles Angels.
San Diego was also interested in Japanese closer Yoshihisa Hirano. There was no word how serious there interest was, however they missed their opportunity, as the relief pitcher signed with the Diamondbacks.
Clearly the Padres have been interested in the Japanese market this offseason. After striking out twice, it appears as if the third time is the charm.
According to Yahoo Japan and later confirmed by Jeff Passan, relief pitcher Kazuhisa Makita is close to signing with the Padres, and is coming stateside for a physical.
Makita has spent the last seven seasons with the Seibu Lions of the Japan Pacific League. In that time he has appeared in 276 games, racking up a 53-49 record with a 2.83 ERA and a 514/206 K/BB ratio. Makita is also a two time All-Star and the 2011 Rookie of the Year for the JPPL.
The Japanese star also made a name for himself during the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Makita appeared in five games and six innings, pitching to a 1-0 record with a 3.00 ERA, 6/2 K/BB ratio and two saves.
What makes Makita interesting is his submarine pitching motion. There aren’t many players in the league who throw submarine, and perhaps none that get as low as Makita.
That motion helps hide his pitches, following the batter and leading to higher strikeout totals. Bringing his unique motion stateside should confuse matter batters who’ve never faced it before. Although it’s important to note that Makita is much more of a groundball-type pitcher in the form of Brad Zeigler rather than a lights-out closer in the form of Brad Hand.
Speaking of Hand, the only question remaining about Makita, is what inning is he going to pitch in?
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Makita has the ability to function as a middle reliever, as he mainly has for the past six years. But when he won ROY in 2011, he did so earning 22 saves. If the Padres were to move Hand, there’s a chance Makita could be next in line for saves.
There’s also a question of how much Makita will make. While obviously not Otani price, San Diego will likely have to pay a posting fee on top of his contract. What that will come out to be is still unknown.
Kazuhisa Makita may be an unknown player now, but he will soon be a force for the Padres. With his dominant success and submarine pitching motion, the Japanese superstar should be a fun player to watch in San Diego for many years to come.