Pittsburgh Pirates: Estimating The Contracts For Top International Free Agents

The Pittsburgh Pirates should be aggressive on the international free agent market, but what could some of the top targets make this off-season?
Aug 4, 2021; Yokohama, Japan; Team Japan pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto (17) throws a pitch against
Aug 4, 2021; Yokohama, Japan; Team Japan pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto (17) throws a pitch against / Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports
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Yuki Matsui

The Pirates have a solid foundation for a good, long-term bullpen with David Bednar, Colin Holderman, Carmen Mlodzinki, Dauri Moreta, and Ryan Bocuki. But the Pirates could certainly get more depth, especially another left-hander and one with experience closing games out. One option to pursue could be Yuki Matsui.

Matsui just turned 28 at the time of writing this. The southpaw pitched to a 1.57 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, and 5.54 K:BB ratio with the Rakuten Golden Eagles. Matsui has a 32.4% strikeout rate, as well as a 5.9% walk rate. He is also immune to the home run, as he has a 0.47 HR/9 rate. Of his six NBP seasons, he has an HR/9 of 0.5 or lower six times. The lefty transitioned to the bullpen after his age-18 campaign and hasn't looked back since. Matsui has saved a total of 236 games.

You'd think that someone like Matsui, a dominant closing pitcher, is an intimidating presence on the mound with hard stuff to back it up. But Matsui is just a 5'8", 170 pounds hurler who averages out around 92-95 MPH. He has a looping curveball as well as a splitter, but don't sleep on his four-seamer just because it's not a 97+ flamer. He's been a very effective pitcher at getting strikeouts with his finesse.

It's hard to make a good comp for Matsui. There's no good comparison as another high-leverage lefty out of the international market to compare him to. He's younger but pitches much differently than most high-leverage guys. But if I had to make an estimation, he signs something in the 3-4 year range worth $6-$8 million a season. On average, that's about how much a decent left-handed relief pitching makes a year, including Matt Moore, Brooks Raley, and Andrew Chafin made in 2023. However, since the market is thin with left-handed relief pitching, who have a recent track record of saving games, I could see Matsui approaching $10 million a year.