Who Is Kodai Senga? New York Mets Meet With One Of The Top Free Agent Starting Pitchers

Who Is Kodai Senga? New York Mets Meet With One Of The Top Free Agent Starting Pitchers
Image © Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Frank Weber
Author:
Frank Weber
Updated: 
November 18th 2022 - 04:17 PM

The second the World Series ends, millions of baseball fans around the country immediately think of one thing: free agency. Last year, we sat by and watched some of the MLB’s best negotiate new contracts and don new jerseys, and this year, we can expect to see some of the same, as some of the biggest names in baseball are currently without a team. Some of the star free agents right now are:

  • Aaron Judge
  • Jacob DeGrom
  • Brandon Nimmo
  • Carlos Correa
  • Justin Verlander
  • Trae Turner
  • Xander Bogaerts
  • Clayton Kershaw
  • Carlos Rodon

Each of those players are expected to sign major deals, and rightfully so–they are all proven stars in today’s MLB, and are regarded as some of the best at their respective positions. In addition to these stars, there is one other player who is making waves in the MLB free agent market–and the odds are, you’ve never even heard of him.

Who Is Kodai Senga?

Kodai Senga, a 29-year-old NPB all-star, is one of the biggest names in free agency right now and is a top commodity for many MLB teams. It was just announced yesterday that Senga met with the New York Mets, and early reports are saying it went very well. 

Senga, a right-hander that will turn 30 in January, has been a phenomenal pitcher in the NPB, Japan’s premier baseball league, for the past 11 seasons. Just last year, while pitching for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, Senga went 11-6 with a 1.94 ERA, striking out 156 batters while he was at it. His career numbers are just as impressive: in 11 seasons, he has a 2.42 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP, with 10.0 strikeouts per nine innings.

Senga averaged 96 mph with his fastball last season and was clocked at a maximum of 101.9 mph in one start in May. He also has a nasty splitter (which acts more like a forkball)  in his arsenal, and it is so unhittable that it is often referred to as the “Ghost Fork” in Japanese baseball circles.

Scouts have been all over Senga’s game for years now, with most reports gleaming positive stats and values regarding his game. However, some evaluators are not as impressed with his arm, sighting a spotty fastball and “mediocre” breaking pitches. 

"In Japan he relied on hitters chasing his splitter down, out of the strike zone, because a lot of them had to cheat to get to his velocity," one team scout told Yahoo Sports. "He’ll probably have a tougher time getting big league hitters to do that.”

Senga Meets The Mets

meet-the-mets.jpg

© Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Despite some of the negative criticism, Senga will still be a hot commodity for many MLB teams in need of a pitcher. The New York Mets, who can potentially lose three star pitchers to free agency, have already started talking with Senga, with a meeting reportedly happening on Thursday, November 17th. 

The Mets’ General Manager, Billy Eppler, has lots of experience scouting players out of Japan, so there’s really no surprise that he was the first to hop onto the Senga express. As a scout with the Yankees, Eppler was one of the driving forces for signing Masahiro Tanaka, and then when Eppler was the GM for the Angels, he helped convince Shohei Ohtani to sign with the team. 

Eppler will look to keep his NBP success rolling here with Senga, especially since the Mets starting rotation is suddenly in danger. The Mets lost three of their five main starters to free agency at the end of the 2022 season, as Jacob DeGrom, Chris Bassitt, and Taijuan Walker all hit the market. The Mets were also set to lose Carlos Carrasco but instead decided to pick up the team option, which would ink him to one more year in Queens. 

What This Could Mean For The Mets and Jacob DeGrom

If you’re a Mets fan, you may want to close your ears for this part. The fact that the Mets are so vehemently pursuing a starter in free agency that is not named Jacob DeGrom is never really a good sign. While I’m sure they have the money to sign both Senga and DeGrom, it’s just not a good look for the Mets to publicly pursue a starting pitcher that is not the man that won two Cy Young awards while wearing your colors. It would be like if the Yankees were in talks with a different right fielder not named Aaron Judge–it wouldn’t make any guarantees, but some dots would command connecting. 

Right now, the Mets are the sixth-highest favorite to win the 2023 World Series, sitting at +1200 on DraftKings Sportsbook. If they lose DeGrom, it’s highly likely that those odds would drop significantly, at least to the +1600 range. However, the signing of a Japanese phenom may dull the pain, even if it’s just a little.

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