Yamamoto Sweepstakes

by Andrew Tucci | Dec 14, 2023 | General | 0 comments

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Now that Shohei Ohtani is out of the picture, Japanese sensation Yoshinobu Yamamoto is the focus of the baseball world. The 25-year-old is anticipated to earn a huge contract as the best available free agent pitcher, even more than two-time Cy Young winner Blake Snell. Teams are lined up to add Yamamoto to their rotation, which is not surprising given that he put up a stunning 1.16 ERA over 171 innings for the Orix Buffaloes last year.

The contract offers will be significant just as they were for Ohtani, but only one team will truly be satisfied. Yamamoto, on the other hand, will have plenty of options for where he starts his MLB career. There are 3 landing spots for Yamamoto I will be discussing that I feel make the most sense for this Japanese sensation.

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1. Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers recently gave Ohtani $700 million in guaranteed money, but they still have money to work with because the two-time MVP decided to defer a whopping $680 million of his contract. Is there room for one more Japanese superstar?

If the finances work out, Yamamoto could be persuaded to move to Los Angeles by Ohtani’s presence and his desire to play in a major market. The Dodgers are in dire need of pitching, as seen by the uncertainty surrounding their rotation and the fact that Clayton Kershaw, a free agent, is expected to miss the start of 2024. It also helps the Dodgers chances of landing Yamamoto by having 4 MVP’s sitting in on the meeting in Shohei Ohtani, Mookie Betts, and Freddie Freeman.

Yamamoto would just add to an already star studded Dodger team, and would give him the best chance to compete year in and year out.

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2. New York Yankees

There have been numerous rumors indicating that the Yankees are leading the Yamamoto sweepstakes, having already met with the free agent. New York was reportedly in a “solid position” before the meeting, according to Andy Martino of SNY. If Yamamoto decides to sign with the Yankees, he would be teaming with former MVP Aaron Judge, the current AL Cy Young winner, Gerrit Cole, and recent addition Juan Soto, one of the best young players in the game. If Yamamoto enjoys performing in front of the brightest lights possible, New York is the place to be.

The Yankees still have a lot of work to do on their roster, and the starting rotation is the top priority despite their huge acquisition for Soto. The Yankees are short on options behind Cole, Carlos Rodon, and Nestor Cortes Jr. with Michael King traded, Luis Severino out of the picture, and Frankie Montas a free agent after sitting out almost all of 2023. With Cole at the top of the rotation, adding Yamamoto would give the Yankees a potentially formidable one-two punch. However, it is unclear how a deal would affect the team’s chances of re-signing Soto in the long run.

Given that Masahiro Tanaka and Hideki Matsui are two of the most adored players in recent Yankees history, Yamamoto may look up to those two Japanese icons as role models for what life in New York could be like.

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3. New York Mets

Despite Steve Cohen’s enormous bankroll, the Mets didn’t take Ohtani seriously, and they haven’t been as influential this offseason as they were a year ago. One explanation for this is the belief that 2024 will be a year of transition rather than championship contention. While some players may not align with that long-term strategy, Yamamoto does. When the Mets finally establish themselves as title contenders, Yamamoto, who is only 25 years old, will still be at his peak for a number of years.

Kodai Senga, who arrived from Japan a year ago and had a fantastic rookie season, is the Mets’ top starter going into 2024. Senga may help Yamamoto feel at home in a foreign land and make an outstanding tandem at the top of New York’s rotation.

Given their history of making big-time purchases when the opportunity arises, the Mets might make Yamamoto’s biggest offer, and that might just be enough to land him.

Photo Credit: foxsports.com
While all three of these teams are the best fits for Yamamoto, they still have to work out some sort of contract with the young pitcher. According to Jon Heyman of the New York Post, Yamamoto might be able to fetch a $300 million contract. If a team signs Yamamoto, they will also have to pay his posting fee, which could be as much as $35 million, depending on how close the transaction is to $300 million.

Although Yamamoto was initially anticipated to sign a contract in the $200–$225 million range, the Japanese star is poised to take full advantage of multiple suitors and a comparatively sparse free agent class outside of the top few players. After agreeing to a nine-year, $324 million contract with the Yankees in 2019, Gerrit Cole became the only pure pitcher in MLB history to receive a $300 million contract. Although Yamamoto is four years younger than Cole was when that agreement was inked, it’s unclear if he has any chance of shattering Cole’s record.

Yamamoto has until January 4th to sign with a team, so these sweepstakes could very well come down to the wire. Whoever lands Yamamoto will certainly be gaining a future ace for years to come in their rotation.

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I’m currently 21 years old and I am living in a small town on Long Island. I am in the process of studying Sports Management at St. Johns University and looking to break out in the sports industry. My whole life I have been surrounded by sports whether it’s watching them or even playing them. I have a true passion for sports, especially baseball, and I am trying to one day get an opportunity to fulfill my dream of working for the MLB. Every small step helps in the process of making my dream come true, so I’d appreciate the support in helping me do so!

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