Chiba Lotte also defended the player, saying, “The delay in salary negotiations is not due to Sasaki’s selfishness.”
Sasaki held a press conference on the 27th at Jojo Marine Stadium in Chiba Prefecture, Japan, the home of Chiba Lotte, and explained the misunderstanding that occurred during the salary contract process.
Chiba Lotte announced on the 26th, “We have completed a 2024 salary contract with Sasaki,” adding, “Sasaki will hold a press conference in a few days.”
As a result, Sasaki was the last player from 12 Japanese professional baseball teams to sign an annual salary contract in 2024.
Japanese media previously fueled the “conflict theory” by reporting that “Sasaki is the only uncontracted player in Japanese professional baseball” and that there is a possibility of training at his own expense without going to the spring camp.
As rumors of conflict grew, Chiba Lotte set up a separate press conference after completing the contract with Sasaki.
Sasaki said on the same day, “There was a misunderstanding and worried the fans because I didn’t have a chance to officially tell them about my situation.”
“Since I joined Chiba Lotte, I have talked about entering the Major League with the club,” he said, explaining, “I didn’t ask for a sudden move to the Major League last year.”
A club official who attended the press conference also said, “Sasaki is right,” adding, “Sasaki has consistently communicated his opinion with the club about entering the Major League through his agent, and we made mistakes in the process of discussion.”
Sasaki is drawing attention from Major League Baseball teams as a fastball pitcher who exceeds 160 kilometers per hour. He also achieved a perfect game in 2022, and has 19 wins, 10 losses, and an ERA of 2.00 for three seasons from 2021.
However, he had a conflict at the end of the 2023 season, asking the club to advance to the Major League early.
In response, Chiba Lotte coach Masato Yoshii objected, saying, “It is not too late to return the favor to the current club and advance to the United States,” and Sasaki raised the spark by leaving the players’ association.
According to the U.S.-Japan professional baseball agreement, players in the Japanese league who challenge to the Major League before the age of 25 can only sign minor league contracts. The down payment for players is up to $5.75 million (about 7.7 billion won), and the transfer fee for the former team is up to $1.44 million (about 1.93 billion won).
Sasaki has only played for three seasons in the first division, and he has never played a full-time season due to frequent injuries. Since his team Chiba Lotte never won the title during this period, the Japanese media and fans did not like it.
At the press conference, Sasaki declined to comment on his plan to advance to the Major League after the 2024 season. “Playing in the big leagues has been my long-cherished dream. I am constantly communicating with my club about entering the Major League.”