After signing Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, it was clear that the Dodgers were becoming the place to be for the biggest stars coming out of Japan and NPB. Shortly following Yamamoto's signing, reports surfaced about young NPB ace Roki Sasaki's now-longstanding connection to the Dodgers, signaling that Andrew Friedman and Co. might as well just be building a direct pipeline to LA under the Pacific.
Sasaki, who we saw pitch against major league talent during the World Baseball Classic last March, seems restless to get to MLB. He reportedly requested this offseason to be posted by his NPB team, the Chiba Lotte Marines, despite the fact that it would mean receiving significantly lower pay from a major league team, as opposed to what he could get if he waited a few more years.
Now, Sasaki might be doubling down. Yakyu Cosmopolitan, who reported on Sasaki's history with the Dodgers in early January, also reported that Sasaki had withdrawn from NPB's players union and that he and the Marines have yet to put pen to paper on a contract for 2024.
Good news for the Dodgers: Roki Sasaki might be landing in MLB sooner than we thought
Yakyu Cosmopolitan also dropped some interesting additional information in a thread; they note that young players like Sasaki withdrawing from the Players Association is incredibly unusual, and leaders within the union are very unhappy about the move. This doesn't necessarily mean that Sasaki will be coming over to MLB this year, but it could indicate that he's putting pressure on the Marines to agree to post him following the 2024 season, per his wishes. If that happens, he'll still only qualify as an amateur free agent, and both he and the team will have to collect smaller payouts from his move to MLB.
Given the star power that Ohtani and Yamamoto generate alone, and the hold they have on the imaginations of Japanese baseball fans, it makes sense that Sasaki wants to get in on the action as soon as possible. On the Dodgers' side, their connection to Sasaki dates back to his high school years, and Friedman has been spotted visiting him in Japan. An amateur free agency is good news for the Dodgers, who would be able to add another dynamite arm to the rotation at a low price.
Although the Dodgers can probably expect some competition from other teams whenever Sasaki actually does become a free agent, if he does choose LA, his reasons will be obvious. A bad case of FOMO might be what has him pulling at the leash and trying to break away from NPB, but the sooner the better for the Dodgers.