Just moments ago, a major puzzle of the NPB offseason has been solved, with now former Fighters superstar Kensuke Kondo inking a massive 6-year deal with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks worth 4 billion yen (around 29.2M USD), with the Hawks landing one of the league’s best hitters.
This news comes as a slight shock, as the free agency movement in NPB isnt usually prone to superstars like Kondo changing teams, especially seeing as Kondo still hasn’t turned 30 and was the unquestionable face of the franchise in Hokkaido.
Brought up as a catcher and later switched to the outfield, Kondo is one of the most peculiar hitters in baseball, standing at just 5´7, Kondo has managed to hit double digit HRs only once in his career, when he hit 11 2021. Kondo also doesnt bring much speed to the plate, stealing just 41 bags in his career, and his defense has consistently been graded as a decisive negative.
So why did Kondo just receive on of the largest deals in NPB history?
It’s simple, Kensuke Kondo is a hitting savant. He has an eye that rivals the likes of Juan Soto, with a career .413 OBP, ranking 6th all-time in NPB History, trailing only players like Ichiro, Seiya Suzuki, Masataka Yoshida and foreign legends Tom O’Malley and Roberto Petagine, all of whom have had or will have MLB experience.
His contact skills are also elite, boasting a career .307avg, .353 BABIP while striking out less than he walks.
This contract will take Kondo through his age 36 season, which would be seen as a problem if not for Kondo possessing what might be the most ageless skillset possible. His game does not rely on athleticism whatsoever and he is basically a full time DH now.
It’s safe to expect Kondo to bat at the top of the Hawks lineup throughout his deal, complementing the likes of Yuki Yanagita and Ryoha Kurihara on a menacing Hawks lineup, who already was the best in NPB in 2022 (108WRC+) despite not having Kurihara due to a torn ACL early in the year.
I believe it is time for NPB fans to sound the alarms, the recent dinasty that is the Hawks in the 21st century has awaken from their brief slumber, and they are ready to take back the mantle as Japan’s top team.