Source: Phillies will pursue Japanese free-agent pitcher Yusei Kikuchi


CARLSBAD, Calif. — The Phillies would like to improve their starting pitching this winter. And if they can do that by adding a left-hander, all the better. The Phils have used a lefty starter just three times in the last two seasons and that’s not ideal when you face Freddie Freeman and the Atlanta Braves 19 times in the NL East.

Arizona’s Robbie Ray and Seattle’s James Paxton are two lefties that the Phillies have interest in trading for (see story). The Phils also have interest in free agents J.A. Happ, Dallas Keuchel and Patrick Corbin, all lefties.

Another lefty is expected to hit the free-agent market very soon. His name is Yusei Kikuchi. He is 27 years old. He pitches for the Seibu Lions of the Japanese League and that club is expected to go through the posting process and make him available to major-league clubs this month.

The Phillies have seen Kikuchi and will pursue him once he becomes available, according to a baseball source. Kikuchi is represented by Scott Boras and the Phillies will be spending plenty of time communicating with him this offseason as they pursue his star client, free agent Bryce Harper. Boras also represents Phillies players Nick Williams, Jake Arrieta, Vince Velasquez and Rhys Hoskins.

General manager Matt Klentak would not speak about specific offseason targets at the GM meetings on Tuesday. But he did confirm that he’d like to add a lefty starter this offseason.

“In a perfect world, we would like to have a more balanced rotation,” Klentak said.  “We’re not going to swap out a good righty for a less-good lefty. We’re not going to do that to have a lefty. But if we can make the rotation better and also add balance to our pitching staff, I think that’s something worth exploring.”

Scouts who have seen Kikuchi rate him as a No. 3 or 4 starter on a major league staff.

Kikuchi went 14-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 23 starts for Seibu in 2018. He struck out 153 batters in 163 2/3 inings. He went 16-6 with a 1.97 ERA in 26 starts in 2017.

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