Los Angeles Dodgers Sign Yoshinobu Yamamoto To Record Contract

The Los Angeles Dodgers officially signed international free agent Yoshinobu Yamamoto to a 12-year contract worth $325 million.

“I’d like to thank everyone in the Orix organization, the Dodger organization and all the people close to me who have given me so much support throughout this free-agent process,” Yamamoto said. “I am truly excited to wear Dodger Blue and can’t wait to play in front of a packed Dodger Stadium.”

As part of the deal, the Dodgers are required to pay a posting fee of $50.6 million to the Orix Buffaloes, Yamamoto’s former Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) club. That essentially increases the total investment by the Dodgers to $375 million.

The fee going to the Orix Buffaloes is the largest under the current posting format that began in 2017, but falls shy of the record $51.1 million the Boston Red Sox paid to the Seibu Lions in 2006 when they signed Daisuke Matsuzaka.

In addition to the record fee, Yamamoto’s contract is the largest signed by a free agent pitcher in MLB history, both in terms of years and total value.

The previous record contract length to a pitcher was held by Gerrit Cole of the New York Yankees, who signed a nine-year deal prior to the 2020 season.

Wayne Garland also signed a 10-year, $2.3 million contract with Cleveland in 1977, but it was part of a different free agency process and he failed to play it out due to injuries.

Cole also held the record for the largest total value in a contract signed by a pitcher at $324 million, which has now been topped by Yamamoto by $1 million.

The Yankees reportedly did not increase their offer to Yamamoto in part because they did not feel any pitcher should be paid more than Cole.

Yamamoto’s contract with the Dodgers includes opt-outs after six and eight years, giving him another chance to hit free agency following the 2029 season when he would be 31-years-old, and again after 3031 at 33-years-old.

“We could not be more excited to bring Yoshinobu Yamamoto to the Dodgers,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. “You don’t win three MVP awards by the age of 25 without an exceptional combination of talent, work ethic and mental toughness.

“He’s an elite pitcher with an impressive dedication to his craft who will only become more dynamic in a Dodger uniform. We are thrilled for him to be a mainstay at the top of our starting rotation for years to come.”

However, the contract is reportedly backloaded, which means he would potentially be walking away from the highest-paying years of the deal.

The contract includes no deferrals, but the Dodgers did pay him a $50 million signing bonus.

The significant contract to Yamamoto represents his talent and the Dodgers’ belief in his ability to be an ace, and also his age as a free agent at just 25-years-old.

Yamamoto was arguably the most coveted free agent in MLB history, which created a bidding war between MLB’s large market clubs.

His decision reportedly came down to the Dodgers, Yankees and New York Mets, while the San Francisco Giants, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays also made an effort.

L.A. ultimately won the sweepstakes after matching the offer the Mets made, and because of Yamamoto’s affinity for the Dodgers growing up and because of his desire to play with Shohei Ohtani.

Although he has yet to pitch at the MLB level, teams have a good idea of what they are getting because of the available data on his pitches and his dominance playing in the NPB.

Both scouts and analytics departments are high on the right-hander, who projects to lead an MLB pitching staff for a long time.

In his final season in the NPB, Yamamoto went 17-6 with a 1.21 ERA, 0.86 WHIP in 24 games. He captured his third consecutive Eiji Sawamura Award, which is the NPB equivalent of the Cy Young.

In seven seasons with the Buffaloes, he posted a 70-29 record with a 1.82 ERA and 922 strikeouts in 172 games.

Yamamoto is only the third player in Japanese Baseball history to win the MVP award in the NPB over three consecutive seasons, joining Hisashi Yamada (1976-1978) and Ichiro Suzuki (1994-1996).

Yamamoto is also one of eight players in history to have three or more NPB MVP awards, joining Sadaharu Oh (9: 1964-1965, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1977), Shigeo Nagashima (5: 1961, 1963, 1966, 1968, 1971), Katsuya Nomura (5: 1961, 1963, 1965-1966, 1973), Kazuto Yamamoto (3: 1946, 1948, 1951), Tetsuharu Kawakami (3: 1941, 1951, 1955), Hisashi Yamada (3: 1976-1978), Ichiro Suzuki (3: 1994-1996) and Hideki Matsui (3: 1996, 2000, 2002).

“This is a great day for the Dodgers and Guggenheim Baseball Management. It is also a major milestone for baseball to have Yoshinobu Yamamoto come from Japan to the United States, bringing a level of talent and promise that has captured the imagination of baseball fans worldwide,” Dodgers president and CEO Stan Kasten said.

“Reuniting with his former Team Japan teammate Shohei Ohtani, Yoshinobu is poised to have a remarkable impact on and off the field in Los Angeles – as well as to further MLB’s ongoing efforts toward making baseball a great global game. We are thrilled he has chosen the Dodgers and honored to have him.”

Dodgers largest pitcher contract before Yoshinobu Yamamoto

Prior to their agreement with Yamamoto, the Dodgers’ biggest commitment to a pitcher was Clayton Kershaw’s seven-year, $215 million contract extension in January 2014.

Under Andrew Friedman’s tenure as the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations, the Dodgers signed Kershaw to a three-year, $93 million extension after the 2018 season.

They also signed Trevor Bauer to a three-year, $103 million deal in 2021 and gave Kenley Jansen five-years, $80 million in 2017.

Friedman also acquired and signed Tyler Glasnow to a five-year, $136.5 million extension this offseason, giving him his two biggest pitcher contracts in the same offseason.

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