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Baseball: Japanese slugger Munetaka Murakami to be posted to MLB after 2025

Munetaka Murakami poses with a smile after signing a three-year deal worth an estimated 600 million yen per year with the Yakult Swallows on Dec. 9, 2022, in Tokyo. (Pool photo/Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Yakult Swallows' record-breaking slugger Munetaka Murakami will be posted to the major leagues after the 2025 season.

    The 22-year-old third baseman, who became Japan's youngest Triple Crown winner this year, signed a three-year deal worth an estimated 600 million yen ($4.4 million) per year plus incentives with the Central League club on Friday, up from 220 million yen plus incentives for this past season.

    "I'm just grateful to have signed a deal like this," Murakami said in response to the Tokyo-based club's decision to give him a chance to play in the majors after three more seasons in Japan. "I'll need to work even harder."

    As for the jump in annual pay, the two-time CL MVP said, "I think I've produced results that deserve this. I'd be surprised if I got 600 million yen without doing anything, but I worked hard."

    Earlier in the week, SoftBank Hawks outfielder Yuki Yanagita, the highest-paid position player in Japan, signed for an estimated 620 million yen for 2023, the fourth year of his seven-year contract with the Pacific League club.

    Rakuten Eagles pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, a former New York Yankee, is Japan's highest-paid player, earning 900 million yen this past season.

    "It would be a huge blow to our club," Swallows President Tsuyoshi Kinugasa said of Murakami's planned departure. "But he is a treasure in the baseball world. I'm sure baseball fans in Japan want to see him play in the majors."

    The Swallows plan to use the posting system for Murakami to start his major league career early as he earns the right to become an international free agent in 2027 at the earliest.

    In 2022, Murakami belted 56 home runs to surpass Sadaharu Oh's all-time record for a Japanese-born player of 55, set in 1964. Wladimir Balentien holds Nippon Professional Baseball's single-season home run record after hitting 60 for the Swallows in 2013.

    Murakami's 56 included home runs in an NPB-record five consecutive at-bats over two games on July 31 and Aug. 2.

    Murakami also batted .318 and drive in 134 runs to become the eighth Triple Crown winner in Japanese baseball history while helping the Swallows to their second successive CL pennant.

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