The deadline for an MLB team to sign Tomoyuki Sugano is officially 5 p.m. Thursday, when his one-month posting period expires.
But in reality, a deal for the Japanese ace has to be in place probably no later than Tuesday, maybe before, because there are enough elements that must be finalized well before Thursday to make sure they are completed prior to the deadline.
One possibility that has emerged, however, is that the deadline can come and go and Sugano can just return to being the ace of the Yomiuri Giants. The Post confirmed an initial report from The Athletic that the righty has a four-year offer from the Giants that contains three opt-outs.
Those opt-outs would allow Sugano to pursue his dream of playing in MLB after any season of his contract, perhaps at a point when MLB teams are more comfortable spending than they have shown themselves to be this offseason.
Nevertheless, all indicators are that Sugano will sign a major league deal because 1) he has come to the States to do any kind of in-person meetings or physicals that would be necessary, 2) he has deals on the table that are for more than what he would be paid in Japan, and 3) according to a source familiar with talks, negotiations are advanced with a few clubs.
The Mets have been interested in Sugano, but neither the team nor Sugano’s representatives will verify who is in the late negotiations. Because Sugano has played for the biggest team in Japan — Yomiuri is known as the Yankees of the league — he is expected to be mostly attracted to only major-market teams here. The Giants and Red Sox are clubs that have been known to be pursuing starting pitching.
Signing a star Japanese player such as Sugano comes with more moving parts than signing a standard free agent, some of it — such as finding a place for a full physical and MRIs — complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Among other things, a team will have to hire as club employees a trainer and an interpreter for Sugano, There is specific language that will have to be written into the boilerplate contract, such as not allowing the player to be sent to the minors without his consent. There also is the matter of a player being comfortable with the decision on a team, since most of the Japanese stars (as is true with Sugano) have only played for one club in Nippon Professional Baseball.
Known more for his array of pitchers and precision than being overpowering, Sugano, 31, is coming off a season in which he was 14-2 with a 1.97 ERA. He is one of the most decorated players in Japanese baseball history, twice winning the league’s version of the Cy Young Award and was named the Central League MVP this year for the second time in his career.