Is Yu Darvish already recruiting next Japanese star to Padres?

The Padres' ace appears to be hard at work recruiting Japan's best pitcher.
World Baseball Classic Semifinals: Mexico v Japan
World Baseball Classic Semifinals: Mexico v Japan / Jasen Vinlove/Miami Marlins/GettyImages

This offseason has by far been, historically, the most impacted by an influx of star-studden Japanese talent. To the San Diego Padres' credit, they did not sit out the market, as they signed Yuki Matsui, but the free agencies of Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Shota Imanaga dominated the offseason rumor mill in a way rarely seen in the sport of baseball. There was, of course, Shohei Ohtani, but he had already been in MLB.

Next offseason, we could see something very similar if Roki Sasaki ends up being made available.

International free agency rules and a lack of cooperation from his Japanese club kept Sasaki from joining the big leagues this year, but the pitcher has made it clear that he wants to be posted by the Chiba Lotte Marines sooner rather than later. That could come as soon as next offseason when his next contract wouldn't be limited by international free agency age restrictions.

Just like Yamamoto, the vast majority of the league could use an arm like Sasaki's, but west coast teams are going to be favored based on marketing considerations alone. Funny enough, it looks like Padres ace Yu Darvish is already trying to work his magic and keep the Padres in the running. Sasaki was recently photographed wearing Padres gear that was apparently a gift from Darvish.

Padres may have the upper hand over the Dodgers in the Roki Sasaki chase

In all likelihood, the fact that Sasaki was wearing a Padres t-shirt while hanging out with some friends will mean nothing. Just like with the vast majority of free agents, the financial aspect of any deal is going to be the most important driving force. Given the state of the Padres' finances, it's very unclear as to whether or not they would even entertain entering the bidding.

However, it sure doesn't hurt their chances that he obliged to wearing Padres merch in public and that Darvish is clearly still trying to do some recruiting. Darvish has already blasted the Padres' offseason due to the fact that the team didn't do more to try and lure Ohtani and Yamamoto, so it's possible that he's trying to lay more groundwork now to help San Diego's potential pursuit of Sasaki down the line.

For the Padres, the fit with Sasaki is pretty obvious. In addition to marketing dollars that Sasaki would bring in to a west coast team given his stature in Japan, San Diego pretty desperately needs to find some long-term solutions in their starting rotation. They lost a majority of their rotation to free agency this offseason and Sasaki possesses a fastball that hits triple digits as well as a forkball that looks downright unfair. He's also put up video game-esque numbers over in Japan and in the World Baseball Classic.

Given that Sasaki could end up getting more than Yamamoto got from the Dodgers, making the money work won't be easy for San Diego. However, for a young, frontline talent like Sasaki, the Padres would be wise to try and take advantage of Darvish's recruiting efforts and make a go at him when the time comes.

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