MLB's Hot Stove action is about to officially get more interesting with the upcoming Yoshinobu Yamamoto sweepstakes.
While two-time Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell is available, he won't be the most intriguing starting pitcher obtainable this winter. His market is looking robust, but it will pale in comparison to what Nippon Professional Baseball ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto's will look like once he's posted.
Speaking of whom, when will the Orix Buffaloes make the ace available to MLB teams? ESPN's Buster Olney reported Friday that Monday, Nov. 20, is expected to be the day. This also means the 45-day window for Yamamoto's camp to negotiate and come to terms on a contract with an MLB team would begin Tuesday.
Source: Pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto expected to be posted Monday. That means the 45-day negotiating window for MLB teams will start Tuesday.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) November 17, 2023
What kind of contract could Yamamoto fetch in free agency? It'll be a pretty penny, without considering the posting fee that will have to be included for his soon-to-be former club. The expectation around the industry is that the starting pitcher's asking price will surpass the $155 million that the New York Yankees paid to sign Masahiro Tanaka ahead of the 2014 season.
In fact, MLB Trade Rumors is projecting Yamamoto will fetch a deal in the neighborhood of nine years and $225 million. Reaching the $200 million plateau has been tossed around for a few weeks; and since nearly half of MLB has been connected to him in some way, it'll probably be easy for agent Joel Wolfe to get above that number.
It's easy to see why teams are so infatuated with him, too. For starters, Yamamoto is just 25 years old. So, any long-term deal (barring potential player opt-outs) would only take him to his early-to-mid-30s. His production in the NPB has also been insane.
In 171 innings this past season, Yamamoto posted a 17-6 record with a 1.16 ERA, 0.86 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) and 176 strikeouts. That's generally been what he's produced since entering the league. He turned pro in 2017 as an 18-year-old. Across seven seasons (967.2 innings), the right-hander is 75-30 with a 1.72 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 986 strikeouts (9.2 strikeouts per nine innings).
To put that in perspective, think of it this way. In Jacob deGrom's 2018 NL Cy Young Award campaign, he posted a 1.70 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP with 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings in 217 frames pitched. So, Yamamoto has essentially been peak deGrom — for seven seasons.
This obviously leads to the next question: Which teams are most desperate to try to sign this guy? Every squad could use a pitcher like him, but his price tag will keep some away. However, his age could convince some unlikely squads to throw their proverbial hat into the ring.
Thus far, at least 13 teams have publicly been connected to Yamamoto in some way. That could include rumors of a potential pursuit this winter, or they sent scouts to Japan during the season to watch him in person. Here's the list of squads (in no particular order):
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- Philadelphia Phillies
- New York Mets
- New York Yankees
- Toronto Blue Jays
- Boston Red Sox
- St. Louis Cardinals
- Detroit Tigers
- Chicago Cubs
- Texas Rangers
- Arizona Diamondbacks
- San Diego Padres
- San Francisco Giants
We've also heard various rumors about Yamamoto's preferences leading up to his posting. One report said he relishes the opportunity to play in a big media market. One would think places such as New York, Boston and Chicago would have the upper hand there. But another report says it's believed the hurler has a preference to play on the West Coast.
What happens next is anyone's guess. After waiting for him to get posted for the better part of a year, though, it's about to become a whole lot more interesting.
Want More Sports News?
Get the biggest and best sports news sent directly to your inbox.