Hanshin Will Be Quick to Negotiate With Messenger

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Stop Soon-to-be Domestic Free Agent Messenger From Leaving!

Just days after the season opens, Hanshin starting pitcher Randy Messenger (36) will reach domestic free agent eligibility, and in 2019 will no longer be counted against the import player limitation. On the 20th, the team revealed its plan to talk to him about a contract extension immediately after his status changes. He will be the first import player to obtain this eligibility, and has shown the same loyalty to the team as any Japanese player does. In order to add him to the “Japanese players” list in 2019, the team intends on swiftly opening negotiation talks.

Because he’s an unshakeable, unmovable presence on the team, and takes responsibility for his job even more than the Japanese players, the team wants to do all it can to show its loyalty to him. Eighteen days after being placed on the top squad next season, he will reach free agency status. A team executive revealed the direction the team is taking, saying, “We will speak to him early on. We have to make sure we don’t lose him to another team.”

As of the end of this past season, Messenger has been registered on the top squad for a total of 7 years and 127 days. Barring some injury or accident, he will reach the required 8 years sometime in the middle of April. In the past, the club has made it policy to express its gratitude to the Japanese players and immediately open negotiations on a contract extension.

Messenger signed a 2-year contract at the end of the 2016 season, which means he is entering the second year of the deal in 2018. The following season, 2019, will see him taken off the import list and added to the local Japanese players’ list. He’s carried the pitching staff for years now, working harder than anyone. The time has come for the team to treat him in the same way they do the Japanese players who become free agents.

Manager Tomoaki Kanemoto has already made a public declaration that Messenger will start on Opening Day (March 30 against the Giants at Tokyo Dome). Should he stand on that mound, he would set a new record for import pitchers, surpassing Joe Stanka of the Nankai Hawks, with 4 straight Opening Day starts.

Though he broke his fibula bone in a game against the Giants in August, he had emergency surgery and a bolt was placed in his leg, miraculously returning to pitch at season’s end. He will play next season with the bolt still in his leg, but club chairman Tanimoto says, “I hear it won’t be an issue. He threw with it (in his leg) at the end of the season.”

The righty been an essential part of the club’s starting rotation since he came to Japan back in 2010. He’s got 84 wins during that span, leaving no doubt that he is the club’s ace. The club will do its utmost to make sure he knows he’s appreciated.

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T-Ray is the founder, chief writer and Junior Executive Vice President of Hanshin Tigers English News (H-TEN). Find him on Twitter @thehanshintiger.