The bidding war for pitching phenom Yoshinobu Yamamoto is reportedly set to begin.
According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, Yamamoto was posted by his Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) team, the Orix Buffaloes, on Monday. As a result, MLB teams will have the opportunity to negotiate a contract with the ace righty.
That negotiating window begins at 8 a.m. ET on Tuesday and will run for 45 days. Whichever team signs Yamamoto must submit terms no later than 5 p.m. ET on January 4, 2024.
Even though two-time AL MVP and two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani currently stands as the top free-agent target on the market this winter, Yamamoto falls right behind his fellow countryman as arguably the best pitcher available.
Given both Yamamoto’s high-end ceiling and the Red Sox’ desperate need for proven pitching at the top of their rotation, it should come as little surprise that Boston has been linked to the hurler over the last few months.
Last week, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that Boston was one of many MLB clubs — along with the Yankees, Mets, Cubs, Dodgers, and potentially both the Giants and Blue Jays — expected to jump into the Yamamoto sweepstakes this offseason.
Yamamoto was a force on the mound for Orix over his seven seasons against NPB competition.
In 2023, he captured his third straight Sawamura Award — the NPB equivalent to the Cy Young Award — after posting a 1.21 ERA, a 0.884 WHIP and 169 strikeouts over 164 innings of work. He also has a chance to take home his third consecutive Pacific League MVP once the 2023 iteration is handed out.
Since his debut with Orix in 2017, Yamamoto has posted both a 70-29 record and a 1.82 ERA with 922 strikeouts in 897 innings.
Yamamoto might be the top pitching talent on the open market this offseason, but prying him out of Japan will require a steep financial commitment. ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel projected that Yamamoto will eventually sign a seven-year, $212 million deal in MLB.
The team that gets Yamamoto to eventually put pen to paper will also need to pay a hefty posting fee to Orix as part of the signing.
As noted by MLB, the posting fee under the MLB-NPB agreement will be 20% of the first $25 million of a major league contract, including earned bonuses and options. The percentage drops to 17.5% of the next $25 million and then to 15% of any amount over $50 million. There is a supplemental fee of 15% of any earned bonuses, salary escalators and exercised options.
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