This MLB offseason has already featured some wild moments. Chief among them: Shohei Ohtani signed a $700 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. That contract is a record amount of guaranteed money, and it’s also primarily deferred, meaning the Dodgers owe Ohtani money for the next two decades. And now that Yoshinobu Yamamoto is officially fielding offers, we might see another record contract signed very soon.
Yamamoto, 25, has been a star pitcher in Japan for the past several seasons, and MLB teams are looking to outbid one another for his services. The Boston Red Sox and San Francisco Giants have reportedly both offered deals in excess of $300 million, per MLB Insider Jim Bowden. That number is approaching the record for a starting pitcher; in 2019, the Yankees signed Gerrit Cole to a nine-year, $324 million deal.
In addition to the Giants and Red Sox, the New York Mets, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, and Toronto Blue Jays are also reportedly interested in signing Yamamoto and will make offers. Bowden also shared that the Yankees and Dodgers are frontrunners, which means the Dodgers could potentially have $1 billion committed to Ohtani and Yamamoto.
There’s also extra urgency surrounding Yamamoto because of his team situation. He’s pitched in the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization since 2017, and he currently has a 45-day window to sign with an MLB team. If he doesn’t agree to a contract by January 4, he’ll return to the Orix Buffaloes in Japan. Signing Yamamoto will also require a $50 million posting fee to Orix.
Last season, he signed a deal worth $4.9 million to remain with the Buffaloes. That’s the highest salary in franchise history, but well deserved after Yamamoto won the Pacific League MVP and the Sawamura Award — given to the league’s most outstanding pitcher — in back-to-back seasons. He added both awards for a third consecutive season in 2023. He’s also won the Triple Crown in each of the last three seasons, leading the league in batting average, home runs, and RBI.
Wherever Yamamoto ends up, he’s going to earn a massive pay increase. If he can put together strong seasons like he’s done in Japan, he’ll be worth the hefty price tag.