Although Shohei Ohtani is the prize of MLB free agency this offseason, Yoshinobu Yamamoto is not far behind as one of the top starting pitchers available.
The Orix Buffaloes posted Yamamoto on Monday, which led to his 45-day window to negotiate and sign with team officially opening on Tuesday.
Yamamoto has drawn interest from the likes of the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres and New York Yankees, among several other teams. In some cases, teams like the Dodgers and Giants and in search of multiple pitchers.
Part of Yamamoto drawing such widespread interest is his allure to team scouts and analytical models, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan:
Just how high Yamamoto’s number goes is unclear, but rare is the player similarly beloved by teams’ evaluators and computer models. With those sorts, it tends to start at $200 million and work up.
The 25-year-old went 17-6 with a 1.21 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 176 strikeouts in 24 games for Orix this year. Yamamoto’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) career ended with a third consecutive Sawamura Award, the Japanese league’s equivalent of MLB’s Cy Young.
Given his age and NPB career, Yamamoto is viewed as an ace pitcher entering his prime. That could be an advantage during contract negotiations, particularly when taking into account Blake Snell is a free agent as well.
Snell just won a second career Cy Young Award, but is turning 31 years old on December 4 and there are some concerns with his walk rate. Though, what Snell does have over Yamamoto is already proving his talents in the Major Leagues.
Yoshinobu Yamamoto deadline
The deadline for Yamamoto to sign with a team is 2 p.m. PT on January 4, 2024.
The team that signs Yamamoto will be required to pay Orix a posting fee that is equal to 20% of the contract’s first $25 million, 17.5% of the next $25 million and 15% of any additional dollars.
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