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Star Japanese lefty eyes signing with MLB club

Kikuchi, 27, in line to be posted by Seibu Lions
MLB.com

It appears the next player to jump from Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball to the Major Leagues will be Seibu Lions left-hander Yusei Kikuchi.

The Lions have agreed to make Kikuchi available through the posting system, according to multiple reports, which would make the 27-year-old free to negotiate a contract with an MLB team. He has not yet been formally posted, however.

It appears the next player to jump from Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball to the Major Leagues will be Seibu Lions left-hander Yusei Kikuchi.

The Lions have agreed to make Kikuchi available through the posting system, according to multiple reports, which would make the 27-year-old free to negotiate a contract with an MLB team. He has not yet been formally posted, however.

Kikuchi went 14-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 23 games for Seibu this season, with 153 strikeouts in 163 2/3 innings. He spent some time on the disabled list due to left shoulder stiffness. In his NPB career, Kikuchi is 73-46 with a 2.77 ERA.

Kikuchi is not expected to be a superstar on the level of two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani, but according to a report by MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi earlier this year, multiple MLB scouts believe he could profile as high as a No. 2 starter in the big leagues. Kikuchi's fastball averages around 92-94 mph, and he can reach 96 mph, which is uncommon velocity among NPB left-handers.

Kikuchi would not have been eligible to become an international free agent until 2020, so he needed the Lions' cooperation to be posted this offseason.

MLB and NPB have agreed to new posting rules that go into effect this offseason. All postings by NPB teams must occur between Nov. 1 and Dec. 5, with a 30-day negotiating window to follow. The release fee paid to NPB clubs by MLB teams is contingent on the guaranteed value of the player's MLB contract, beginning with 20 percent of the first $25 million and continuing with 17.5 percent of the next $25 million and 15 percent of any amount beyond $50 million.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.