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Sugano of interest to Rangers, per report

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Jeff Passan writes that the Rangers are one of the teams that appears in on Yomiuri Giants pitcher Tomoyuki Sugano

World Baseball Classic - Championship Round - Game 2 - United States v Japan Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

MLB Rumors: Tomoyuki Sugano of the Yomiuri Giants is on the Texas Rangers radar, per Jeff Passan, who writes this morning that the Rangers, the Boston Red Sox, the Toronto Blue Jays and the San Diego Padres are “[a]mong the teams that have shown interest” in the 31 year old righthanded pitcher. Sugano, who posted second this year in the balloting for the Sawamura Award (the NPB equivalent to the Cy Young), had a 1.97 ERA in 2020 for the Giants.

Sugano has spent his entire career with Yomiuri, and has a career 2.34 ERA in 1362 innings pitched, with two Sawamura Awards. Kiley McDaniel pegs him as a fourth starter in the major leagues, though Passan cites a scout who says that he could be “at least a No. 3 starter” in America. Sugano’s posting window is only open until January 7, 2021, so if he is going to come to the United States we will know in the next few weeks.

In addition, Kohei Arihara, a 28 year old righthander for the Nippon Ham Fighters, was posted last month — his window closes on December 26, 2020. Arihara has been up and down in his career in Japan, having posted a 2.46 ERA in 164.1 IP in 2019, but then following it up with a 3.46 ERA in 132.2 IP in 2020. He has a career 3.65 ERA in 140 games.

Under the new posting system, teams pay a percentage of the total contract to the posting team, rather than the fixed posting fee under the old system. Sugano and Arihara are free to negotiate and sign with any of the 30 MLB teams, as well, rather than being limited to just the team that posted the high posting fee (or was willing to pay the maximum $20 million posting fee from the year Shohei Ohtani came to America).

Neither Sugano nor Arihara would appear to be cost-prohibitive — McDaniel projects 2 years, 24 million for Sugano, though he says Sugano would likely get 3 years and $30-something million in a “normal” year, while he projected Arihara, who is seen as a lesser pitcher than Sugano, at 2 year, $10 million. I would expect that these pitchers will get more than those dollar figures, but not a huge amount more.

The Rangers, as we have discussed, need to (and likely will be) adding another starting pitcher out from outside of the organization to join veterans Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles, newcomer Dane Dunning, and an internal option (with Kyle Cody being the leading candidate) in the rotation to start the year. The Rangers have been aggressive in pursuing options from the Japanese Leagues in years past, and they have a partnership with the Ham Fighters, Arihara’s club, which would seem to enhance the possibility of them going after Arihara.

Established players coming over from Japan and from Cuba generally have as part of their contract a provision that they will become a free agent at the end of whatever contract they sign, which is why, for example, Chris Martin was a free agent after 2019, despite having less than 6 years of service time. Players coming over from Japan, meanwhile, generally want the security of a multi-year deal to entice them to leave the NPB. One would expect, then, that we will see 3 or 4 year deals for Sugano and Arihara, if they end up coming to the United States. It would not surprise me to see the Rangers offer up a 3 year deal at around $10 million per year, along the lines of what we have seen them land Mike Minor, Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson in recent years for.

And while Sugano or Arihara wouldn’t be a game-changer, adding one of that pair to the mix would certainly help strengthen the rotation. And when we consider that along with the other moves the Rangers have made the past week, the 2021 Rangers look...not half bad?

Take a look:

Trevino — C

Lowe — 1B

Solak — 2B

?????? — 3B

IKF — SS

Dahl — LF

Leody — CF

Gallo — RF

Calhoun — DH

Rotation: Gibson, Lyles, Dunning, Sugano/Arihara, Cody

Bullpen: Montero, Hernandez, Leclerc, Herget, de Geus, Gatto, Martin, Rodriguez

Now to be clear...is that a playoff contender? Not really. Is that a particularly good team? Not really. The over/under on wins would probably be around 77.5.

But what it is is a team with potential young, controllable solutions at every position (assuming Josh Jung steps into the third base job at some point in 2021), with some additional young position players in the upper minors who could be ready in the next year or so (Anderson Tejeda, Sam Huff, Sherten Apostel, Steele Walker), along with the bevy of bullpen arms and questionable starting pitching prospects who are hanging around.

Its a team that would seem to be, in 2022, ready to take a step forward if it could get a big time impact player in the lineup. Josh Jung is, I think, someone the Rangers think can be that type of player in the future, but you aren’t taking these steps and making these moves to get decent, cheap, controllable players in place in the hopes that Josh Jung turns into a superstar down the road.

But these steps do make a lot of sense if you think you can land a superstar after 2021 — if you are prepared to go big to land a Francisco Lindor or a Carlos Correa or a Trevor Story or a Kris Bryant or an opting-out-of-his-contract Nolan Arenado.

Just some food for thought on this chilly Monday morning.