Yoshinobu Yamamoto Rumors: Dodgers Among Favorites After Signing Shohei Ohtani

The Los Angeles Dodgers made the biggest splash in baseball history on Saturday when Shohei Ohtani announced he would be signing with them on a 10-year contract worth $700 million.

While Ohtani was the Dodgers’ top priority throughout the offseason, the team still has bigger needs, mainly in their rotation. Although part of Ohtani’s value is his ability as a two-way player, he will not be able to pitch until the 2025 season after undergoing right elbow surgery.

As it currently stands, the Dodgers’ starting rotation is constructed of Bobby Miller, Ryan Pepiot, Emmet Sheena and Walker Buehler, who is coming off Tommy John surgery and may not be as effective as he once was. So the club needs to add both a top-of-the-rotation starter and depth to their thin group.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto is the top free-agent starter available and would provide the Dodgers with an ace for the next decade or so. However, he is also expected to receive a contract that could be worth $300 million, or more, which will take many clubs out of the running.

Although the Dodgers just committed $700 million to Ohtani, they are still interested in signing Yamamoto and are considered among the favorites, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network:

While Yamamoto has never thrown a pitch at the MLB level, he is highly regarded by both scouts and analytics departments, and the Dodgers are reportedly “enamored” with the right-hander.

The Dodgers also have some internal belief they can pull off signing Ohtani and Yamamoto, which would secure them the top two most coveted free agents in recent memory, all while dishing out around $1 billion in guaranteed money over the next decade to two players.

It would be a significant commitment to the payroll and the two stars, but the Dodgers have the need and funds to make it happen. Even after signing Ohtani, the Dodgers are expected to be around the first luxury tax threshold of $237 million.

Yamamoto went 17-6 with a 1.21 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 176 strikeouts in 24 starts for the Buffaloes this year, which earned him a third consecutive Eiji Sawamura Award — the Nippon Professional Baseball’s (NPB) equivalent of MLB’s Cy Young — and ended his career in Japan by winning three MVP Awards in a row.

Yamamoto is widely considered the best pitcher to ever come over from Japan, and his age being just 25 years old makes him even more enticing to teams. As part of his posting terms, he must sign with a team by 2 p.m. PT on January 4, 2024.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto meeting with teams

Prior to the Winter Meetings, Yamamoto met with interested clubs over Zoom or phone calls. He and his representatives are now expected to begin the process of meeting with the finalists in person after he narrows down the list of clubs he may sign with.

Previous reports have stated Yamamoto prefers the West Coast, wants to pitch on the big stage, is open to playing with other Japanese stars, and grew up rooting for the Dodgers. Despite all that leaning in favor of L.A., the New York Yankees are also determined to sign him, as well as the Mets who currently roster his best friend, Kodai Senga.

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