Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the superstar right-hander from the Orix Buffaloes of Nippon Professional Baseball, was officially posted on Monday, signaling the start of what will likely be an intense bidding war amongst MLB teams. The 25-year-old ace has dominated in Japan over the past several seasons and is now looking to bring his talents to the majors.
So why are teams frothing at the mouth to sign Yamamoto? For starters, he possesses an electric arsenal of pitches that rivals any current MLB pitcher. His fastball sits in the mid-to-upper 90s, regularly touching 98 mph, and features exceptional life and command within the strike zone. He couples that heater with two potential wipeout secondary offerings – an upper 80s splitter with tremendous vertical drop and arm-side run, and a big bending curveball in the low 80s.
Yamamoto has put up video game numbers during his NPB career. He is coming off a 2023 season in which he posted an insane 1.21 ERA across 23 starts, racking up 169 strikeouts in 164 innings along the way. It was his third consecutive year winning the pitching Triple Crown in the Pacific League, leading the circuit in wins, ERA, and punchouts.
With a full repertoire of weapons and a track record of dominance in Japan, it’s no wonder practically every team with money to spend is drooling over the possibilities of inking Yamamoto this winter. The posting period runs until January 4th, at which point the highest bidder will likely commit over $200 million to make him the latest Japanese import heading to the majors.
The Yankees, Red Sox, Giants, Dodgers, and Mets are rumored to be the most aggressive in their pursuit. There also have been indications that Yamamoto prefers the West Coast. Ultimately I predict the big-market Dodgers will outbid the competition and lock down the Japanese ace.
The Dodgers have made no secret about their desire to add high-end starting pitching this offseason. And their track record of reeling in the winter’s biggest fish, evidenced by Freddie Freeman amongst others, gives them the edge here.
Pairing Yamamoto with Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw (if he comes back) would give Los Angeles a lethal postseason rotation for years to come.