Oakland Athletics should join the Yusei Kikuchi sweepstakes

Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images
Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images /

The Oakland Athletics need another starting pitcher, and Japanese lefty Yusei Kikuchi would be an off-kilter but exciting addition. 

It was no secret that the Oakland Athletics‘ biggest need heading into the offseason was starting pitching.

That fact hasn’t changed much, even after recently re-signing Mike Fiers to a two-year deal. And while the A’s project to have more rotational depth at some point in 2019, thanks to the emergence of Jesus Luzardo, and potential mid-season returns of guys like Jharel Cotton, Aj Puk, and Sean Manaea, a high-upside arm would still be more than welcomed.

Pan to Yusei Kikuchi, the most recent expected Japanese import. While the A’s have not been one of the oft-mentioned teams in on him, they should strongly consider joining the mix. Kikuchi (27) has been one of Nippon Professional Baseball’s top pitchers over the last several seasons. He’s a left hander who throws a slider, change-up, curveball, and possesses a fastball that sits around 92-94 mph and can touch 98 (via MLB.com’s scouting report).

Signing Kikuchi does not come without the usual risk, and there is always additional concern with players shifting from the NPB to the Majors. However, there have been quite a few Japanese players who have made the jump successfully.

Possibly the biggest red flag with Kikuchi is that he has had shoulder issues in the past. Although none of the reports suggest anything particularly “serious,” even minor issues give cause for concern, especially when they involve the shoulder of a pitcher.

More from Golden Gate Sports

A quick tidbit — there is a silver lining to this, however, as Kikuchi’s somewhat spotty medical history could actually give the A’s a better shot at signing him by driving down the guaranteed price of a contract. Look to Kenta Maeda’s deal he signed with the Dodgers a few years ago. Maeda’s average annual salary is relatively low, but he has loads of achievable incentives based on whether or not he stays healthy, which limits the financial risk. Kikuchi is bound to get more guaranteed money, but Maeda’s contract is an interesting reference to consider

Risks all considered, Kikuchi would be a worthy player for the A’s to sign. First and foremost, he would give Oakland another arm to slot into their rotation, which at this point, they need. Kikuchi also gives the Athletics another left-handed option while Manaea, their only proven southpaw, pushes on with his rehab. Furthermore, the Japanese lefty would immediately become Oakland’s highest-upside pitcher not named Luzardo or Puk.

Other potential benefits of signing Kikuchi worth mentioning extend beyond the mound. Netting a somewhat high-profile Japanese player would bring the A’s more media attention from Japan and subsequently more fan-ship internationally.

Sports teams are always looking for ways to “recruit” new fans and increase viewership, either on television or at actual games. As for the A’s, who have a loyal fanbase but struggle to draw fans to the ballpark, Kikuchi could help get a few more bodies out to the Coliseum on the nights he pitches. Will signing him solve Oakland’s attendance issues? No, but it could help, and any boost would be a plus.

Next. Athletics' Sean Manaea returning sooner than expected?. dark

Just to point out, Kikuchi’s decision is set to come by January 3rd, so teams’ efforts to sign him are likely in the end stages — hopefully the Athletics are one of those teams!