Japanese star Yoshinobu Yamamoto could receive record-breaking contract in MLB free agency

The headliners of the 2024 MLB free agency features Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani, but there’s another pitcher from the Land of the Rising Sun who is expected to generate an extreme amount of interest this offseason. In fact, Yoshinobu Yamamoto may even set a new record when he signs a contract with an MLB team in free agency.

Yamamoto is a 25-year-old right-handed pitcher who’s become a five-time All-Star in Nippon Professional Baseball (highest level of baseball in Japan), a two-time MVP winner, a three-time Japanese Triple Crown winner while being named the NPB’s best pitcher three times. He’s also the first pitcher in NPB history to toss a no-hitter in consecutive seasons.

His fastball reportedly averages 95 mph but tops out at 99 mph. Yamamoto also mixes in a splitter, cutter, and a curveball, with the splitter considered to be one of the best offerings in his arsenal.

But now, after all those accolades, Yamamoto is ready to take his talent to MLB, where he’s expected to be one of the top commodities available in free agency, just after Ohtani.

With MLB free agency approaching quickly (five days after the World Series ends), more baseball experts are providing their predictions for the top players available. Yamamoto’s contract projections are routinely coming in north of $200 million, which would set a new record for an NPB player coming to MLB. Masahiro Tanaka holds the current record after signing a $155 million contract with the New York Yankees during the 2013 offseason.

Keep in mind that any team that signs Yamamoto will also have to pay the Orix Buffaloes a posting fee, as is customary when signing players under contract from the NPB.

One source predicted, “bidding will start somewhere in the $200 million range for six or seven years.”

Several teams have been named as potential suitors to sign Yamamoto, including the New York Mets, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, Texas Rangers, St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants, Boston Red Sox, and Chicago Cubs. Whoever pursues Yamamoto better be prepared to back up the Brinks truck with frontline pitching once again at a premium this offseason.

Related: Top MLB free agents 2024: Shohei Ohtani, Yoshinobu Yamamoto headlines 2023-’24 MLB free agency rankings

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