Yoshio Itoi is taking his option seriously. He told reporters he felt the option was going to be his first and last. His statement could be seen as an indication that he plans to exercise the option.
The Orix Buffaloes could offer a three-year deal worth as much as 1.2 billion yen.
[UPDATE @ 11:27pm]
The Hanshin Tigers are interested in Itoi. They were also rumored to be interested in Motohiro Shima, but they may have set their priorities on the thirty-five-year-old veteran because they already have a couple of options at catcher. His addition would also mean the Tigers not having to take a risk on the overseas market.
[UPDATE 10/12 @ 8:08am]
The Yomiuri Giants are interested in Itoi. They had a difficult time finding consistency in the outfield this season and are looking to upgrade the position. Other players might become available on the free agent market, but Itoi is their top choice for the time being.
There are rumors Itoi wants to play for a team close to Tokyo because he wants to be closer to his family.
Source: Sanspo 10/11/2016
[UPDATE 10/12 @ 8:30am]
The Tigers might be preparing a three-year deal for Itoi.
Source: Sanspo 10/12/2016
[UPDATE 10/19 @ 6:12am]
According to Daily Sports, Itoi is planning to exercise his free agent option. He apparently has a preference for teams in the Osaka area, which means it could come down to Orix and Hanshin.
Source: Daily Sports 10/18/2016
[UPDATE 10/19 @ 9:54pm]
Itoi met the Buffaloes this month for their second meeting.
Source: Sanspo 10/19/2016
[UPDATE 10/20 @ 9:02am]
The Tigers and Buffaloes may be the only two teams that actually get involved. He is a class B free agent and will require compensation: either sixty percent of his salary or a player plus forty percent of his salary.
Source: Sponichi 10/20/2016
[UPDATE 10/22 @ 11:06pm]
The Buffaloes may have offered Itoi a four-year deal worth as much as 1.8 billion yen.
Orix has met Itoi a number of times and made adjustments to their offer based on their discussions. The thirty-five-year-old veteran has still not decided what he wants to do with his option.
Source: Nikkan Sports 10/22/2016
[UPDATE 10/25 @ 7:30pm]
The Hanshin Tigers are now said to be considering a four-year deal as well. Tomoaki Kanemoto could also get involved in negotiations.
[UPDATE 10/27 @ 7:48am]
Itoi grew up a big Hanshin fan. They were interested in him during the 2003 draft, but he went with Nippon Ham because they were first to show interest in him.
Source: Sanspo 10/27/2016
[UPDATE 10/31 @ 4:35pm]
The Tigers might offer the uniform number 3 to Itoi.
Source: Tokyo Sports 10/31/2016
[UPDATE 10/31 @ 7:12pm]
According to Daily Sports, Itoi is planning to exercise his free agent option on the first day of the filing period (October 31). He is apparently interested in staying in the Kansai region.
Source: Daily Sports 10/31/2016
[UPDATE 10/31 @ 11:19pm]
Sanspo is reporting that Itoi wants to play on natural grass. That could be good news for the Tigers.
Source: Sanspo 10/31/2016
[UPDATE 11/1 @ 7:18pm]
Itoi told the Buffaloes earlier today that he was going to exercise his free agent option. He struggled with the decision, but his desire to test the market beat out his desire to stay. The Buffaloes are planning to keep the door open in the event he wants to talk more.
At this point, Itoi’s choices will probably be Orix or Hanshin.
The Tigers feel good about their chances with Itoi because they offer a number of things he wants, like a stadium with natural grass, a home field in Osaka, and a competitive team. However, the team is still a little concerned when it comes to money. If push comes to shove, Orix might be willing to pay more for Itoi than Hanshin.
[UPDATE 11/3 @ 1:36am]
The Tigers might be thinking a three-year, incentive-based contract. The Buffaloes’ last offer may have been about 1.8 billion over four years.
Source: Sponichi 11/2/2016
[UPDATE 11/3 @ 11:48am]
If the Tigers manage to get Itoi, Kosuke Fukudome could make the move to first base to take some of the stress of his body. This would also leave two spaces open in the outfield for other players.
Source: Sanspo 11/3/2016
[UPDATE 11/3 @ 12:39pm]
Itoi’s father is apparently a Hanshin fan. That may be another +1 for the Hanshin Tigers.
If the Buffaloes want to hold on to Itoi, money may be the only way to do it. They might have more to lose if he walks. Their last offer was 1.6 billion over four years, but they might be willing to go higher, perhaps more than the estimated 2.0 billion over four years they gave Chihiro Kaneko.
Source: Tokyo Sports 11/3/2016
[UPDATE 11/5 @ 2:44pm]
Orix Buffaloes’ President Hiroaki Nishina told reporters on November 4 that the last offer they made Itoi was their best and that they were not planning to make any additional changes. The decision came after a meeting by team officials earlier in the day.
Source: Daily Sports 11/5/2016
[UPDATE 11/7 @ 12:28am]
Itoi has already cleared out his locker at Kyocera Dome. It could be an indication that he ready to move on.
Source: Sanspo 11/6/2016
Sanspo writer Tetsuya Uemura wonders which players the Hanshin Tigers decide to protect if they sign Itoi and the Orix Buffaloes want a player and money as compensation. Takashi Toritani and Tsuyoshi Nishioka seem like players that could be left off the list based on their current situations (big contract for Toritani and coming off an injury for Nishioka), but if Orix is feeling desperate, they might be willing to go after them.
Source: Sanspo 11/6/2016