Yusei Kikuchi

(Wikimedia Commons)

NEW YORK (AP) — Star Japanese left-hander Yusei Kikuchi will be available to major league teams starting Tuesday, with the New York Yankees expected to be among those interested.

The 27-year-old Seibu Lions ace will have until Jan. 2 to sign a contract with a big league club. The Lions would then receive a posting fee based on the dollar amount of the pitcher's contract.

If Kikuchi doesn't reach a deal with an MLB team, he remains with Seibu.

Kikuchi was 14-4 with 3.08 ERA this season, and was 16-6 with a 1.97 ERA the previous year.

Kikuchi, who played for the same high school as two-way star Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels, is 73-46 with a 2.77 ERA in eight seasons in Japan.

Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said last month that he was aware of Kikuchi's ability.

"I saw film on him during the pro scouting meetings," Steinbrenner said. "We talked about that individual. We've always been paying attention to that area of the world — some unbelievably great players came out of there. So it won't be any different this year."

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