The Padres had a meeting with highly sought-after free agent pitcher Koudai Senga in San Diego yesterday, according to Dennis Lin of The Athletic. He recently met with the Mets in New York, and has been drawing interest from a number of other teams, including the Angels, Red Sox, Rangers, Blue Jays, Mariners, Cubs and Dodgers.
Senga is seeking to make the move from Japan to the US after a sterling season in Nippon Professional Baseball. The right-hander tossed 144 innings of 1.94 ERA ball across 22 starts for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, striking out batters 27.5% of the time and walking them at an 8.6% rate. It’s an ideal platform year for a hurler who has been one Japan’s best for the past decade, and in over eleven seasons he boasts a 2.59 ERA across almost 1,100 innings.
The 29-year-old (30 in January) combines an upper-90s fast ball with a split-finger pitch to great effect, although there have been some concerns raised over his command and breaking pitch. With that being said, his track record in Japan speaks for itself, and it’s not surprising there’s a lengthy line of potential suitors showing interest.
For the Padres, Senga would be a boost to a rotation that already features Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Joe Musgrove, and the recently extender Nick Martinez. As Lin notes, Senga is close with Darvish and played with both Martinez and reliever Robert Suarez in Japan, so there’s some familiar faces in that pitching corps there that certainly wouldn’t hurt when trying to sell Senga on San Diego.
As Senga is a true free agent after reaching nine years of service time in Japan, his signing won’t require the acquiring team to pay a posting fee to Fukuoka. MLBTR predicted a five-year, $75MM deal for Senga recently. According to RosterResource, the Padres 2023 payroll is already projected to be right around their 2022 mark, although owner Peter Seidler hasn’t been afraid to make a big splash in recent seasons, so it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to see their payroll increase next year.