Padres should look into signing NPB star pitcher Kodai Senga
The San Diego Padres have shown they will write huge checks and pull players from all over the world to build a championship team. After luring Nick Martinez from Japan and Ha-Seong Kim from South Korea, A.J. Preller could potentially return to the top Asian leagues in order to lure over stud right-handed starter Kodai Senga.
Senga, who has spent the last decade with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in the NPB, has been one of the best starters in Japan. Three All-Star nominations, five Japan Series championships, and the pitching Triple Crown are evidence of how effective he can be.
Senga has declared that he is going to test the MLB waters via free agency. Considering that he is about to turn 30, he likely wants to head to America in his prime. Senga should be able to slide right into a contending rotation and waste no time making his mark on the league.
All of the usual suspects in the league will be in on Senga, but the Padres may need to redirect whatever funds they have allocated to offseason spending over his way. If he clicks, the Padres may have nabbed a quality No. 3 starter for the next half-decade.
Will the San Diego Padres sign Kodai Senga?
Despite a thin frame, Senga’s fastball sits in the upper 90s and regularly exceeds 100 miles per hour. When paired with a sharp forkball and a sweeping slider, Senga’s mix of pitches is going to get MLB hitters out if he can control them. Senga keeps the ball in the ballpark, as he has allowed just nine home runs in the last two seasons.
A deal similar to what the Yankees gave a younger pitcher at the time in Masahiro Tanaka ($22.1 million AAV) might be enough to get him to put on Padres colors. In a division with the pitching-rich Dodgers, you can never have enough veteran starting arms.
Senga would likely start the year as the No. 4 starter behind fellow Japanese ace Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, and Joe Musgrove. However, with his history of striking guys out (159 in 148 innings last year) and keeping them out of the run column (2.42 career ERA), Senga could quickly grab a more critical role.
Signing pitchers from Japan is somewhat risky. For every Darvish and Tanaka out there, names like Kohei Arihara and Kei Igawa have to be fresh in San Diego’s mind. The risk is still worth taking, as the best of what Senga has provided could be star material. He and Masataka Yoshida would be quite an offseason.