On September 13, Munetaka Murakami (22) of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows hit homer No. 55, the most by a Japanese player since Sadaharu Oh (82), and as of September 20, his .330 batting average and 132 runs batted in led the league. He is within striking distance of surpassing Valentin’s record of 60 homers in a season and winning the Triple Crown.
After his historic season, Murakami’s surroundings are already becoming noisy. His salary for this season is 220 million yen. For a fifth-year high school graduate, this is more than Ichiro (48) and Hideki Matsui (48) at the time, but there is no doubt that the amount will increase with his contract renewal this offseason.
The team signed Yamada (Tetsuto Yamada, 30) to a large contract worth 4 billion yen over seven years in the 2020 off-season. This is said to have caused the team to have financial difficulties, but in fact the opposite is true. Yakult Honsha, the company that manages the baseball team, has been doing well, taking advantage of the huge success of “Yakult 1000” to advertise extensively at the home ballpark of the Angels, where Otani (Shohei Otani, 28) plays. Murakami can afford to pay one of the highest salaries in baseball. A single-year salary of 400 million yen is a certainty. Depending on his individual titles, it would not be surprising if he is offered 500 million yen.
Meanwhile, Major League Baseball teams are watching Murakami’s every move closely, as MLB has a so-called “25-year-old rule” that limits the transfer and signing bonus for players under the age of 25. Major League Baseball critic Ryoichi Fukushima explains.
If Murakami is willing to take on a major league challenge this offseason, it is likely that all MLB teams will be involved in a major competition. If Murakami tries out for the Majors this offseason, he can sign a contract with a low transfer fee and annual salary due to the “25-year old rule. All 30 MLB teams, including the Yankees and Blue Jays, who are looking for a left-handed cannon, are expected to make offers.
Murakami himself has long expressed his desire to play in the major leagues. In January of this year, he said in an NHK program, “There are only a few players in professional baseball who are given the right (to challenge the majors). Of course, I would like to be on that stage. In fact, Yakult is open to the idea. A reporter for a sports newspaper revealed, “Yakult has been a member of the team for a long time.
Yakult has always allowed its players to try out for the majors, and we will respect Murakami’s wishes. Of course, we would like Murakami to stay until he turns 25 in 2025, but since he has contributed so much to the team, we are willing to support his dream if he so desires.
Where will Murakami play next year? The world is watching to see where he will play next year.
Photo： Kyodo News