Yamamoto’s free-agency suitors down to three, $250 million contract

Yoshinobu Yamamoto

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Japanese pitching sensation Yoshinobu Yamamoto has emerged as the biggest free-agent draw in the MLB. According to insider Bob Nightengale, only three teams are capable of meeting the terms and costs of the pitcher’s free agency and he will land a contract worth $250 million.

The Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) has granted 25-year-old Yamamoto permission to explore opportunities in Major League Baseball (MLB) through the player posting system.

Nightengale speculated that Yamamoto’s contract might exceed $20 million, expecting him to surpass Blake Snell as the highest-paid free agent pitcher. Considering additional fees, this may go up to $250 million.

Here’s a brief breakdown of posting fees:

  • $0 – $25MM incurs a fixed 20% fee.
  • $25MM – $50MM incurs a fixed 20% fee for the initial $25MM and an additional 17.5% fee for each dollar beyond $25MM.
  • $50MM+ incurs the same fees as mentioned above, along with an additional 17.5% fee for each dollar exceeding $50MM.
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Yankees in contention for Yamamoto

Nightengale suggested widespread interest in Yamamoto, highlighting the pitcher’s affinity for the spotlight. He narrowed down potential suitors to the Dodgers, Yankees, and Mets, expressing skepticism about any other team being a likely landing spot for the pitcher.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto achieved a remarkable 16-6 record in 23 games with a 1.21 ERA for the Buffaloes during the recently concluded season. Despite his outstanding performance, Orix fell short of securing the league title, losing Game 7 of the Japan Series to the Hanshin Tigers.

The future of Yoshinobu Yamamoto in MLB remains uncertain, but current odds position the Dodgers as the favorites to secure the pitcher at +400. The New York Yankees, known for their active role in free agency, closely follow with odds of +500. The New York Mets trail behind with +600 odds in the competition for Yamamoto. Teams within the +800 to +1400 odds range include the Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Texas Rangers.

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He will get a record deal

Yamamoto is poised to secure one of the premier free-agent contracts this offseason, and speculation surrounds the potential magnitude of the deal.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the anticipated price for the Japanese right-hander seems to be surpassing the previously estimated $200 million floor. With significant interest from nearly every major-market team in the 25-year-old pitcher, Passan suggests that a $250 million deal is within the realm of possibility. Such an agreement would necessitate the signing team to contribute a posting fee exceeding $39 million to Yamamoto’s current team, Orix in Japan.

There’s a chance that Yamamoto might secure the second-highest contract for a starting pitcher in history, trailing only Gerrit Cole, considering the two-way prowess of Shohei Ohtani.

As reported by The Post’s Jon Heyman, both the Yankees and Mets are actively competing for Yamamoto’s services. The competitive landscape is expected to include free-spending teams, such as the Dodgers, Red Sox, and Cubs, along with contenders like San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Arizona.

The fervor surrounding Yamamoto stems from his extraordinary achievements in Japan, where he clinched the Japanese Cy Young Award for three consecutive years. This remarkable feat came on the heels of leading Nippon Professional Baseball in wins, ERA, and strikeouts throughout each of those seasons.

The Olympic gold medalist pitcher of Tokyo 2020, Yoshinobu Yamamoto is on the Yankees radar.
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Yamamoto’s impressive track record surpasses even that of Masahiro Tanaka before he secured his noteworthy seven-year, $155 million deal — in addition to a $20 million posting fee — with the Yankees almost a decade ago. At the time, it ranked as the fifth-largest contract ever awarded to a pitcher.

The signing team has until 5 p.m. on January 4 to submit terms for Yamamoto under the posting system.

On a separate note, Ohtani is currently a free agent for the first time in his MLB career and still stands to potentially secure a contract exceeding $500 million, despite undergoing Tommy John surgery that will sideline him from pitching in 2024.

In the current phase of free agency, it’s widely acknowledged that Yamamoto is the standout figure in the pitching market. At 25 years old, he holds the potential to stabilize a team’s rotation for an extended period. However, as highlighted by Nightengale, acquiring his services won’t be a budget-friendly endeavor. Premium pitchers at the age of 25 with exceptional skills are a rarity, and they infrequently enter free agency. Given the dynamics of posting fees, only teams with the financial capacity and the inclination to meet such expenses will remain contenders for Yamamoto.

Japanese athlete Yoshinobu Yamamoto
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Nightengale’s proposition about the Dodgers, Yankees, and Mets competing for Yamamoto aligns with logic. These three teams possess the financial means to secure Yamamoto and the capability to cover the associated posting fee.

Considering the MLB Luxury Tax implications, the New York Yankees might need to augment their substantial player payroll to reshape the trajectory of their franchise. Bringing Yoshinobu Yamamoto on board could serve as a pivotal step in fortifying a vulnerable starting rotation, potentially marking the commencement of a more extensive transformation.

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