Outside of postseason play and Opening Day, MLB Free Agency is one of the most exciting times of the year for baseball fans. Everyone breaks out their glasses to read the tea leaves of cryptic statements made by general managers, and everyone has their social media alerts turned on so they don’t miss any big free agent announcements. Good contracts are given, and more often than not, bad ones are handed out as well. This time of year has turned even more exciting for Mets fans as of late with Steve Cohen positioning the team as more than the franchise that is “in conversation” with free agents. They’re now serious contenders for whatever free agent allows them to be. The Mets made a big splash early on, retaining Edwin Diaz to the tune of a five-year, $102 million extension.
There are the other 2022 Mets that are free agents that the Mets will consider bringing back, most notably Jacob deGrom and Brandon Nimmo. But some of the real excitement comes when the Mets bring new faces to the team. As with all decisions, the Mets will weigh risk vs. reward when deciding who to spend Cohen’s money on. Outside of deGrom, perhaps the risk vs. reward impact is highest when it comes to international free agent Koudai Senga. Senga is getting ready to jump ship from Nippon Professional Baseball League in search of a lucrative MLB contract. The fact of the matter is that most likely, he’ll get it due to his reported “nasty” splitter and high strikeout rate.
Looking at some of his numbers, they are impressive. His career ERA is 2.42, and last season he recorded an impressive 1.94 ERA while striking out 27.5% of the batters he faced according to Anthony Franco of MLB Trade Rumors. While there is always the concern of how foreign league players who have had success in their native leagues, it should be noted that he was excellent in his limited appearances in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, striking out several MLB players on his way to making the all-tournament team. The real risk with Senga is how his health when he transitions to the MLB.
Senga has tossed over 1300 innings in his professional career, which dates back to 2012. He’s twice had seasons where injuries impacted his ability to hit the field, with the latest happening in 2021. This by no means is saying that he is injury prone, as all pitchers go through injuries at some point over the course of their careers. It does make me balk however, considering that the Mets were impacted by an unhealthy rotation during the 2022 season. A pitcher who has spent 10 seasons pitching where there are less games played could have a hard time adjusting to the grueling MLB calendar.
At this point, the Mets need to think twice when considering adding a pitcher like Senga to their rotation. The full expectation is that this is a team that will make the postseason again in 2023, and they’ll need pitchers that will be able to take the rubber. While Senga’s numbers are without a doubt dazzling, the Mets need to look at pieces that have proven they can pitch the long MLB season at an effective level, which is something that Senga has not had the opportunity to prove.
Does that mean he is not tempting as a prospect for this team? Absolutely not. Just thinking about a pitcher with a devastating fork ball like Senga gives Mets fans flashbacks to what Yu Darvish did to them throughout the 2022 season. It would also not be fun to see Senga debut for a rival like the Yankees, or a contending team like the Padres, and pitch the lights out while the Mets run out some other pitcher. However, it would also be devastating for the Mets to have to count on an expensive, fatigued pitcher down the stretch who is not accustomed to a long schedule. The Mets have win-now pressure, and putting a pitcher like Senga in that position would not only be unfair to the team, but also to Senga as well. While Senga is definitely an MLB-level talent, the risk involved with signing him might not be worth it for a team who is looking at winning a World Series in the very near future. If the Mets do end up signing Senga however, it will be interesting to finally have a pitcher with the devastatingly-slow forkball after being tortured by it for years.
Senga has thrown over 1300 innings in the NPBL
Senga’s career ERA is 2.42
Senga made the All-World Baseball Classic team in 2017