Hotaka Yamakawa (Seibu Lions) is set to become a free agent after the season ends, despite not having enough days to qualify for free agency (FA) due to his alleged sex-related offenses. How on earth can a player become an unrestricted free agent despite not having enough days to qualify?
Multiple local media outlets, including Japan’s Daily Sports and Sankei Sports, reported on Nov. 11 (KST) that Hotaka Yamakawa will become a free agent after this season.
Yamakawa is a “hard hitter” who represents Nippon Professional Baseball. He was drafted by the Seibu Lions in the second round of the 2013 Nippon Professional Baseball Draft and began his professional career in the 2016 season. Despite appearing in just 49 games in 2016, Yamakawa showed off his “power” with a whopping 14 home runs, batting .259 with a .945 OPS.
Yamakawa followed that up with a 23-homer, .398 OPS and 1.081 batting average in 58 games the following year, and then reigned supreme as the home run king in 2018, hitting .281 OPS and .986 batting average with 152 hits, 47 home runs, 124 RBIs, 115 runs scored, and a .281 OPS in 143 games, including four monthly MVP titles. The following year, Yamakawa again hit 43 arches in 143 games and was named the Pacific League home run king for the second straight year.
Yamatawa struggled mightily in 2020 and 2021, but he bounced back last year, hitting .266 with 41 home runs, 90 RBIs, 62 runs scored, and a .953 OPS in 129 games, helping Japan win the World Baseball Classic (WBC) in March and lift the trophy. However, an unexpected twist occurred during the season.
On May 11, Japan’s Weekly Bunchun broke the news of Yamakawa’s sexual assault. “Last year, a victim report was filed against him for sexually assaulting an acquaintance at a hotel in downtown Tokyo. Yamakawa, who was a member of the WBC national team, was investigated by the Metropolitan Police Department on suspicion of rape.” Yamakawa was ‘married’. Yamakawa said, “We were close. The woman alleged sexual misconduct by Yamakawa, saying, “I refused several times, but was pushed away.” Yamakawa claimed, “I didn’t consent, but I wasn’t forced.
The impact was profound. Yamakawa was suspended from the first team shortly after reports of the sexual misconduct surfaced, and Seibu Holdings, the parent company of the Seibu Lions, was inundated with letters of protest, and shareholder outrage began to pour in during the Q&A portion of the shareholder meeting. In response, Seibu Lions President Tsuyoshi Okumura said, “We are deeply disappointed that our players were sent to jail. We sincerely apologize for the great concern and inconvenience caused to our shareholders, fans, and officials.”
Yamakawa was booked on May 23 on suspicion of sexual assault, but the charges were dropped late last month due to “insufficient evidence” and he was legally cleared of all sexual assault-related charges. However, Yamakawa’s return to action this season is far from certain. His sexual assault case is still unresolved, with the accused woman appealing the verdict, and the Seibu club refusing to reinstate him to the first team until he is cleared of all charges.
However, on the 11th, it was reported that Yamakawa could be eligible for free agency. At the time of his expulsion from the first team, Yamakawa was 17 days short of being eligible for free agency. If Seibu’s stance on Yamakawa’s return is so strong, how can Yamakawa fulfill the remaining free agent days and become eligible? The Japanese media repeatedly mentioned the “special reserve list for injured players”.
Nippon Professional Baseball has a provision known as the “breakdown (injury) special measure,” which states that if a player who has completed 145 registration days in the previous year is injured on the field between Feb. 1 and Nov. 30 of the following year and is removed from the first team, the days from the date of removal to the date of his first official appearance in a second team game will be counted toward his first team registration days.
According to Nippon Professional Baseball Pacific League officials, Yamakawa suffered a calf injury on April 10 that kept him out of the first team until April 27, adding up to exactly 17 days, making him eligible for free agency despite no longer being able to play in a first team game. As such, Yamakawa will be eligible for free agency after the season ends, allowing him to switch teams within Japan.온라인카지노
For now, Seibu’s position remains unchanged. They won’t sign Yamakawa to the first team until the end of the season. Yamakawa had earlier this season rejected Seibu’s four-year offer and signed a one-year deal worth 270 million yen (approximately $2.4 billion). Despite the lack of evidence, Yamakawa is still under fire from public opinion, but will he be able to continue his career? Sometimes things happen in Nippon Professional Baseball that don’t make sense. A prime example is Hayato Sakamoto (Yomiuri Giants), who has remained in the game despite repeated sexual offenses. We’ll have to wait until the end of the season to find out if Yamakawa’s suspension will be extended.