After three straight years atop the Pacific League, the Orix Buffaloes are losing two pillars of their mound this offseason.
“Super Ace” Yoshinobu Yamamoto, 25, is headed to the major leagues via post. The team enters next season without its best starting pitcher, who led the league in wins, ERA, strikeouts, and winning percentage for three straight years. This was expected after last year’s Japan Series win.
Left-hander Sachiya Yamasaki, 31, hit the market as a free agent. The Pacific League’s Nippon Ham Fighters and SoftBank Hawks, and the Central League’s Yakult Swallows, Yokohama BayStars, and Yomiuri Giants are in the running for Yamasaki. On Nov. 21, reports surfaced that the Nippon Hammers had offered four years and 800 million yen. It is also said that Central League teams without a designated hitter are more active in the hunt.토토사이트
This season, Yamamoto and Yamasaki won 16 and 11 games, respectively. They ranked first and second in wins.
The Orix, whose power is inevitably weakening, bolstered their batting lineup instead of their mound. They signed right-handed hitting outfielder Ryoma Nishikawa (28), a free agent from Hiroshima. He will sign a five-year contract totaling 1.5 billion yen (approximately 13.1 billion won). The Orix have been checking on him since last year. Nishikawa earned an annual salary of 120 million yen (about 1.05 billion won) from Hiroshima this year.
In eight seasons, Nishikawa has a career batting average of 2.099 with 815 hits, 64 home runs, and 341 RBIs. This year, he was second in the Central League in batting, hitting .325 (127-for-416) with nine home runs and 56 RBIs in 109 games. He will lead the Orix offense alongside Yuma Tongu, 27, who is first in the Pacific League in batting (3-for-7).
“The Pacific League is similar to the major leagues. I wonder if my baseball will work.”
Born in Shimane Prefecture, Nishikawa grew up in Osaka, the home of the Orix, and played for a team near Osaka’s Kyocera Dome in middle school.
He has one more connection to the Orix. Masataka Yoshida, 30, who played as the No. 4 hitter for the Orix before moving to the Boston Red Sox, is a senior at Tsurugakehigo, a prestigious baseball school in Fukui Prefecture. He is expected to wear Yoshida’s No. 7 jersey.
The Orix filled Yoshida’s spot last winter with Tomoya Mori (28). The Orix signed Mori, a free agent from the Seibu Lions, to a four-year, 1.8 billion yen contract. Mori, a catcher turned hitter, batted .299 with 18 home runs and 64 RBIs in his first year with the team, helping them win their third straight title.