Infielder Gosuke Katoh has signed with the Nippon-Ham Fighters of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, the team announced (h/t to the Kyoto News). It’s the first NPB stint for Katoh, who made his major league debut this past season after nine years in the minors. Katoh is represented by John Boggs & Associates.
A second-round pick of the Yankees in 2013, Katoh played in the organization through the end of 2019. He didn’t reach the big leagues and qualified for minor league free agency, bouncing between the Marlins and Padres systems before landing with the Blue Jays last offseason. Katoh cracked Toronto’s big league club out of Spring Training, but he appeared in just eight MLB games before being waived in early May. He landed with the Mets and spent the remainder of the season with their top affiliate in Syracuse, hitting .223/.310/.383 across 324 plate appearances.
New York outrighted Katoh off their 40-man roster over the summer, and he was eligible for minor league free agency this winter. Another crack with an affiliated team would have come on a minor league deal with a non-roster invitation to Spring Training. His new deal with the Fighters assuredly comes with a much stronger base salary than he’d have gotten had he played next year in Triple-A and gives him an opportunity to suit up at Japan’s highest level.
Katoh, notably, is a California native. Despite having been born and raised in the United States, he’s a dual US – Japanese citizen based on his Japanese heritage. As a report from The Mainichi explains, all Japanese citizens — regardless of their place of residence or professional experience — are subject to the NPB draft if they wish to play in the league. Katoh, therefore, was part of last month’s draft alongside a number of younger, amateur players. The Fighters, coincidentally Katoh’s favorite team from childhood, selected him in the third round and agreed to terms. As a Japanese citizen, he will not count against NPB’s limit of four foreign players per roster.
It’s possible Katoh plays well enough in Japan to draw some new big league interest down the line. For now, he’ll join the Fighters as an infield option with multi-positional experience and a career .270/.360/.434 line at the Triple-A level.