Big race to secure Yamamoto likely to hand him MLB’s third-biggest pitching deal

Japanese star pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto is a key target for the Yankees in the 2023 offseason.

Last Updated on October 28, 2023 at 7:03 am by Michael Bennington

With big MLB teams bringing their financial muscle into play, Japanese pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto is likely to sign the third biggest MLB deal for pitchers. An anonymous source with inside knowledge of a Major League Baseball front office that is interested in signing star player Yoshinobu Yamamoto has indicated to sportswriter Mike Puma of The New York Post that the bidding war for the talented Yamamoto will likely open at around $200 million for a 6-7 year contract.

If Yamamoto signs a new contract in the range of the speculated $200 million deal, it would rank as the third-most lucrative contract in Major League Baseball history. Only pitcher Gerrit Cole of the New York Yankees, who inked a $324 million contract, and pitcher Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals, who signed for $245 million, have received bigger contracts in MLB.

Advantage Yamamoto thanks to push by big teams

This unnamed front office insider gave Puma the scoop that multiple MLB teams are expected to aggressively pursue Yamamoto in free agency and are prepared to offer enormous contracts, possibly starting their initial bids in the range of $200 million for 6-7 years to attempt to sign the superstar player away from his current team. According to the front office source, the massive contract offers reflect Yamamoto’s outstanding production and value as one of the top players in baseball.

Japanese athlete Yoshinobu Yamamoto
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This is also a clear indication that the era of the New York Yankees possessing the most financial resources in Major League Baseball has come to an end. Almost a decade after inking Masahiro Tanaka to a 7-year, $155 million contract, the most lucrative deal ever signed by a pitcher transitioning from Japan to Major League Baseball, the Yankees now face some competition for coveted Japanese pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto from the New York Mets.

Should either New York franchise end up signing the two-time Pacific League Most Valuable Player and winner of the top pitching award in Japan, they will need to offer a contract that greatly exceeds the size of Tanaka’s in terms of value.

The precise total dollar value of Yamamoto’s potential new contract would vary based on the length of the deal. A 6-year contract at around $200 million would give Yamamoto the sixth-highest average annual salary in MLB history at approximately $33.3 million per season. Meanwhile, a 7-year deal would pay him an average of $28.6 million per year, which would be the eighth-highest average annual salary in the league. Regardless of the exact contract length, signing a roughly $200 million deal would cement Yamamoto’s status as one of the highest-paid athletes in Major League Baseball.

The big contract size will be a record for a Japanese star

San Diego Padres ace Yu Darvish has made the most career earnings, $188.4 million, of any player who has come to Major League Baseball from Japan. If Yamamoto signs for $200 million, he would surpass Darvish’s total by over $11 million – more than what Yankees bust Sonny Gray, now a Cy Young Award contender, made this entire season.

Yoshinobu-Yamamoto
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The Yankees are to face the biggest competition to sign Yamamoto from cross-town rivals the New York Mets. However, they are at a disadvantage following the departure of their general manager Billy Eppler, who is considered a big asset in negotiating with Japanese players. Before his departure, the Mets were viewed as the frontrunner to sign the 25-year-old pitching star.

Tanaka signed with New York while Eppler was the Yankees‘ assistant general manager in 2014. Shohei Ohtani chose to go to the Los Angeles Angels during Eppler’s time as their GM. And Kodai Senga, who emerged as the ace of the Mets staff, decided to join the team in Queens mainly due to Eppler’s recruiting. Eppler’s track record of landing top Japanese players made the Mets frontrunners for Yamamoto before his departure. But his exit from the Mets front office has left the competition for Yamamoto wide open among MLB teams.

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