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Tomoyuki Sugano

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Tomoyuki Sugano
Just curious what you all think of Sugano's decision not to sign with the Fighters, who drafted him. Is he in the right to sit out a year and wait to play for the Giants? Or should he just get on with it and take any chance to play pro ball?
Re: Tomoyuki Sugano
[ Author: Christopher | Posted: Nov 4, 2011 4:21 PM | HAN Fan ]

Something similar happened a few years back with Lotte bouncing Softbank. I believe the young man involved then eventually decided to join Lotte. If it is Sugano's desire to play for the Giants then he's right to refuse to talk to Nippon Ham. If he did sign with Nippon Ham he would have to wait until he was traded (if this happened) or until he had served eight years of his career. Waiting a year will probably get him into the Giants quicker. There is also a moral issue - it seems that Nippon Ham promised they wouldn't select him. That is underhand.
Re: Tomoyuki Sugano
[ Author: gotigersredsox | Posted: Nov 4, 2011 5:34 PM ]

There's a story like this every few years, which was really confusing for me before I understood more about the Japanese draft. (Not that I can say I completely understand it yet!) My initial perspective is just go with the team that selected you and play. Admittedly, this is my American perspective. The way the draft supposedly works is the weakest teams get the players with the most potential, thus helping them make the team better. This is the way it usually works, unless your name is Eli Manning (an NFL star whose Daddy went on TV and asked the San Diego Chargers not to pick him.)

However, there are also some big differences between MLB and NPB that make me sympathize slightly with Sugano. Players here have to stay with their initial team much longer than in MLB. In MLB it's almost an advantage to get picked by a weak team. You get to start sooner and establish your star power, then you both sign with a winner and make a fortune. I imagine NPB is also more a reflection of the corporate society here--those from the best schools are obviously going to hold out until they get the best job offer possible.

Of course the Nippon Ham's "promise" not to pick Sugano also put a whole other spin on this story. And I guess this is the part where I still don't understand the NPB draft. Aren't draft picks secret until the players are actually selected? In this case, I don't understand why Nippon Ham would ever make such a promise.
Re: Tomoyuki Sugano
[ Author: westbaystars | Posted: Nov 5, 2011 12:05 AM | YBS Fan ]

First of all, I don't think that Nippon Ham ever promised not to go after Sugano. My understanding was that they just neglected to tell him before hand that they were pursuing him. The general feeling was that the Giants were going after him (as Hara-kantoku is his uncle), so it was an unspoken agreement that he was off limits. I admire the Fighters for going against that unspoken agreement.

But I also feel for the kid. His dream was to play for his uncle. That was what he was working toward his entire life. The shock of being drafted by a different team was immense. How dare the Fighters shatter the poor kid's dream?

Now that I've praised and demonized Nippon Ham, I would like to add that I think that Sugano would probably develop better in the Pacific League than in the Central League. I was raised to dislike the designated hitter, but witnessing how much better pitchers are developing in the PL over the CL has completely changed my view of it. So my feeling is that he can choose to join the Fighters and develop into the best pitcher he can, or join his uncle and the Giants and continue to pursue his dream (to be continued in a few years). My only warning is the words of a very wise man issuing the curse, "May your fondest wishes come true."
Re: Tomoyuki Sugano
[ Author: gotigersredsox | Posted: Nov 5, 2011 8:36 PM ]

Thanks for your opinions and also additional information, Westbay-san. I'm still on the fence about this. On the one hand, I don't think there should be such a thing as a player who is "off limits." Again, the whole point of a draft is to give each team the opportunity to get better in the future. If Sugano is a player that the Fighters think will help them win, they have every right to pick him if they have first dibs. If it's every young players dream to play for the Giants--which fortunately it isn't anymore--the whole point of the draft is lost. Matsuzaka wanted to be drafted by Yokohama, but he didn't whine when Seibu picked him and quickly became a star.

Again, the only reason I sympathize with Sugano is nine years with your initial team is a long time. Who knows how long his career will last, so perhaps he has the right to fulfill his dream of playing for his uncle immediately. Of course it would be really funny if Hara got fired for the Giants 3rd place finish and loss in the Climax Series! I know this isn't going to happen, but of course I always enjoy when things don't go the Giants' way.
Re: Tomoyuki Sugano
[ Author: westbaystars | Posted: Nov 7, 2011 8:02 PM | YBS Fan ]

Exactly. Domestic free agency needs to be much sooner. 5 years sounds good to me. And not 5 years of 1-gun service, just a flat 5 years. If this were the case then there would be little need to abandon dreams of playing with a specific team as it would be a deferred goal. And postponing entry to NPB by going to college (4 years) or entering an Industrial League team (3 years, I think) would still have merit for some. But if 5 years to freedom to choose with professional experience were available, I think that everybody in NPB could benefit.
Re: Tomoyuki Sugano
[ Author: Christopher | Posted: Nov 8, 2011 2:01 PM | HAN Fan ]

I saw that Sugano talked with Nippon Ham for an hour. He was still noncommittal but he may be changing his mind.
Re: Tomoyuki Sugano
[ Author: Christopher | Posted: Nov 22, 2011 8:05 AM | HAN Fan ]

Just an update - Sugano has announced he will sit out a year and is definitely not going to Nippon Ham. He is likely to join Giants next year as one can't see another team pulling the same trick again.
Re: Tomoyuki Sugano
[ Author: gotigersredsox | Posted: Nov 27, 2011 2:45 PM ]

Funny that if you skip the draft to go straight to MLB you get a 2-year ban, but if you sit out a year in order to join the Giants no one says a word.
Re: Tomoyuki Sugano
[ Author: Switch Pitcher | Posted: Jan 5, 2012 10:07 PM | LOT Fan ]

I'm very interested in the draft system in Japan.

To recap:

Is it 9 years with one team before you can be a free agent?

If you go to college, or one of the industrial leagues, does that speed up your free agency?

And as Go-Tigers-Red-Sox said, if you go to the Majors directly you are banned for 2 years from the NPB league?

New Questions:

Are you allowed to negotiate (or even set some outline for a contract) with teams before the draft, so as to get some idea of what they will offer?

Is there any limit on the price a rookie can be paid?

If there is some page where I can get more info in English on these NPB issues, and others, please direct me to it.

Thanks for your time.
Re: Tomoyuki Sugano
[ Author: westbaystars | Posted: Jan 6, 2012 10:53 AM | YBS Fan ]

One at a time.

- Is it 9 years with one team before you can be a free agent?

It's a little more complicated than that, and there have been numerous revisions over the years.

Currently, a player needs 9 seasons of being registered with the top team for 145 days per season to qualify for full free agency, 8 seasons for domestic free agency. Therefore 9 (or 8 domestically) years in the minimum required to become a free agent.

With regard to counting days, there are numerous adjustments that get taken into account. For example, any number of days over 145 over a single season do not count, thereby allowing for a maximum of 145 days over the time period from the start of the season to the end of the Nippon Series. Players moved to or from ichi-gun during the first 7 days after the season starts, before the All-Star break, after the All-Star break, or end of the season get the number of days at ni-gun during that time counted toward free agency. Also, a player injured during the course of the season will get a maximum of 60 days credited for the time he was injured and rehabilitating.

When free agency started, it was 10 years counted similar to the above, but the number of days served for one season has fluctuated, and the credit days are more recent. With regard to the next question:

- If you go to college, or one of the industrial leagues, does that speed up your free agency?

There was a time when this was true. I believe that it was soon after the free agency requirement dropped to 9 years, those who spent time playing amateur ball after high school were required to pass 8 years.

Many of these rules were put into effect before anyone considered moving to the Majors via free agency a viable option. After that option became clear, the 9 for full/8 for domestic rule was put into action for all player, high school entrants included.

I've read that domestic free agency may be reached after 7 years for players entering after a certain year, but I'm not sure if that was a proposal or if it has been incorporated into the NPB rules. The "Pro Yakyu Agreement" between the owners and player's union used to be on the Japan Professional Baseball Players Association (JPBPA) web site, but I was unable to find it recently to confirm this. That's the document (in Japanese only) that we need translated to fully understand all of the rules. I've translated parts of it in the past, but as in English, Legalese is very difficult, and moreso in a second language.

- And as Go-Tigers-Red-Sox said, if you go to the Majors directly you are banned for 2 years from the NPB league?

I believe that that was a non-binding resolution that the owners made to punish late-blooming Tazawa Junichi. Again, I need to find the Pro Yakyu Agreement to confirm if they codified that or not. The Tazawa Incident happened after the last time I downloaded the Agreement, as have a number of the Free Agency changes.

- Are you allowed to negotiate (or even set some outline for a contract) with teams before the draft, so as to get some idea of what they will offer?

This is something that I've wondered for quite a while as well. I know that established players have had wording put into their contracts to allow for posting if certain targets are met. Lotte's Nishioka was the most recent well publicized player to have done that. And clubs have verbally promised many things and not followed through over the years, so I would be surprised if vague, verbal promises haven't been up to now. But draftees aren't permitted to have real agents negotiating, so getting such a stipulation into a contract would be highly unlikely.

- Is there any limit on the price a rookie can be paid?

Yes. First year salary may not exceed ¥1,500-man (¥15,000,000) and signing bonus may not exceed ¥1.5-oku (¥150,000,000).

The Seibu Lions and others were found to be giving out ridiculous amounts of money under the table for "dinner expenses" and "taxi fare" (more than enough to take a taxi from Sendai to Tokyo and back) in order to entice players to refused being drafted by any team other than themselves or to declare 逆指名 (reverse designated draft - where the top 1 or 2 amateurs could choose the team they wanted to enter). While Seibu had to sit out the first round of the draft when these facts came to light, it was later pointed out that the Giants and BayStars (at a minimum) were also using these tactics to recruit players.

So, yes, there is a salary and bonus cap for newly drafted players to help even out the chances for even low-market teams to recruit players. But with money's corrupting influence, I would be surprised if the richer teams weren't still passing money under the table; if not to the players directly, then to managers and coaches to help influence the players.

- If there is some page where I can get more info in English on these NPB issues, and others, please direct me to it.

I've written about all of the above scandals and changes over the years, so this site does have a lot of the details and opinions from when the above incidents were going on. But I think that what you want is a translated version of the most recent Pro Yakyu Agreement. It would certainly be nice if one of the translators in our community could get the NPB to commission them to make a translation of it. (I wouldn't ask a professional of such caliber necessary to translate Japanese Legalese to do so far nothing. That just wouldn't be right.)
Re: Tomoyuki Sugano
[ Author: Switch Pitcher | Posted: Jan 6, 2012 5:44 PM | LOT Fan ]

You're a wealth of knowledge Michael. I will look through some of the past articles, yet if there ever comes up a translated version of the Pro Yakyu Agreement please let me know.

This is a site about Pro Yakyu (Japanese Baseball), not about who the next player to go over to MLB is. It's a community of Pro Yakyu fans who have come together to share their knowledge and opinions with the world. It's a place to follow teams and individuals playing baseball in Japan (and Asia), and to learn about Japanese (and Asian) culture through baseball.

It is my sincere hope that once you learn a bit about what we're about here that you will join the community of contributors.

Michael Westbay
(aka westbaystars)

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