Dodgers Rumors: Japanese Star Koudai Senga Eyed by LA in MLB Free Agency

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVNovember 11, 2022

Kodai Senga
Koji Watanabe/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Dodgers are reportedly "showing interest" in Japanese starting pitcher Koudai Senga, a three-time Nippon Professional Baseball All-Star.

Jon Morosi of the MLB Network reported Friday that Senga, 29, is "now eligible" to enter free-agent contract talks with MLB teams after opting out of his contract with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.

Since Senga is a traditional free agent—he's not part of the posting system typically involved with Japanese players making the switch to MLB—the team that signs the right-hander won't incur any additional fees beyond the contract's value.

The five-time Japan Series champion is coming off a 2022 season with the Hawks where he posted a 1.94 ERA and 1.06 WHIP with 156 strikeouts in 144 innings. His career ERA across 11 years of Japanese pro baseball stands at 2.42.

In October, Senga said making the move to MLB is the end of a long-term plan.

"I'm absolutely going to file for free agency," Senga told reporters. "I've been saying I'm going to do it for the past six years, so this represents nothing new for me."

The Dodgers will face plenty of competition for him in free agency.

Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported Tuesday the San Diego Padres were interested along with "virtually every other MLB team."

The Chicago Cubs, Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays are among the other clubs publicly linked to Senga so far, per Darragh McDonald of MLB Trade Rumors.

MLB sources told Joel Sherman of the New York Post that Senga features a fastball that can reach triple digits and an elite splitter, but there are concerns about his lack of a polished breaking ball and some nagging elbow injuries over the years.

"[Senga] is one of the most talented, physically gifted players I've ever played with," Fukuoka teammate Colin Rea told Sherman. "His competitiveness on the mound is second to none and he works his butt off in between starts. He throws 100 and has a split that no one can touch. He's constantly trying to improve every day. His English also is improving. He could be a star in MLB."

Regardless of where he signs, he'll likely open his U.S. career as a mid-rotation starter in 2023. Any team signing him to become an ace-level contributor would be taking a risk.