MLB’s next big Japanese star has just hit the market.
Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the highly regarded 25-year-old starting pitcher, was posted by Nippon Professional Baseball’s Orix Buffaloes on Monday.
Yamamoto, a right-hander, is expected to spark a bidding war in which some of baseball’s richest franchises will pay more than $200 million for his services.
Japanese right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto has been tagged and major league clubs have been notified. The window starts tomorrow at 8 am ET. The signatory club must submit it no later than January 4, 2024 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 20, 2023
Here’s what you need to know:
Why is he so excited?
Yamamoto may be the best rookie to leave Japan since Masahiro Tanaka in 2014. Yamamoto won the Eiji Sawamura Award — the NPB’s equivalent of the Cy Young Award — the past two seasons. In the year In 2023, he went 16-6 with a 1.21 ERA in 24 starts, striking out 176 batters in 171 innings. In last year’s World Baseball Classic, Yamamoto went 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA in two starts, striking out 12 in 7 1/3 innings.
Although he’s still only 5-foot-10 and roughly 175 pounds, his stuff is considered elite. According to The Athletic’s Jim Bowden, Yamamoto “really knows how to play plus and minus and has exceptional command in and out of the strike zone.” He is intelligent, passionate and a competitive competitor. His fastball lives in the mid-to-high 90s with a wipeout split toe and a plus curveball as part of a five-pitch mix. He moves the ball well from west to east and from north to south.
It’s rare for a pitcher his age to reach free agency at any rate, and the team that locks him up could have a front-end rotation option for the next decade.
Yamamoto officially enters free agency at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning, and teams will have 45 days to compete for his services. His posting period ends on Jan. 4 at 5 p.m., according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.
Yamamoto’s deal is to pay a posting fee, or essentially a tax, to Oryx. Because Yamamoto is expected to command a contract well into the nine figures, the signing team will pay Oryx. ” according to MLB.com.
Who is interested?
Any team with the money to consider signing Yamamoto could take a shot, as it’s always difficult to get a top start at the majors. But some of the teams most linked to Yamamoto are the New York Yankees, New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers.
Bowden predicted it would cost the team as much as $211 million over seven years to secure Yamamoto. Bowden ranked Yamamoto No. 2 on this offseason’s list of top free agents, behind two-way star Shohei Ohtani. In the year In 2014, the Yankees gave righty Masahiro Tanaka a seven-year, $155 million deal. Last season, the Mets signed righty Kodai Senga to a five-year, $75 million contract, and Boston signed left fielder Masataka Yoshida to a five-year, $90 million contract.
Yamamoto’s Sengan deal with the Mets was negotiated by Wasserman.
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(Photo: Megan Briggs / Getty Images)