With the Yoshinobu Yamamoto posting now official, it’s time to start taking a close look at Yamamoto’s free agency. Several teams have reportedly expressed serious interest in signing the best player to come out of Japan since Shohei Ohtani. While teams may not pursue him as fervently as Ohtani, there’s no doubt that Yamamoto is going to attract a lot of attention.
Yoshinobu Yamamoto free agency landing spots & projection
But while every team in baseball would love to sign Yamamoto, who are the serious contenders to actually do it? Experts who have made a Yamamoto contract prediction expect his deal to be for nine figures, meaning the Japanese pitcher is poised to sign a massive contract, especially for someone who’s never pitched in the big leagues before.
But now that the Yoshinobu Yamamoto posting is official, it’s time to take a serious look at the top contenders to sign him.
At first glance, a West Coast city like San Francisco makes a lot of sense for a Japanese player, so the Giants have that working in their favor.
They also seem intent on making a big splash and signing one of the top free agents available this winter. For what it’s worth, the Giants probably prefer to sign Shohei Ohtani to Yamamoto. They also need hitting more than they need pitching. But that’s not going to prevent them from being a dark horse in the Yamamoto sweepstakes, especially if it starts to look like they won’t be able to get Ohtani.
With Craig Breslow now calling the shots in Boston, the Red Sox could end up becoming a major player for Yamamoto. There’s no doubt that they need pitching and have the payroll flexibility to afford the type of contract Yamamoto is likely to receive. Also, Boston is a big market that’s fit for a blossoming star like Yamamoto.
The Red Sox also have a secret weapon in the form of Masataka Yoshida. Boston signed the former NPB all-star last offseason after he spent more than five seasons as a teammate of Yamamoto’s with the Orix Buffaloes. Yoshida and Yamamoto also helped Japan win Olympic gold in 2021 and the World Baseball Classic in 2023. That connection could give the Red Sox an edge if they choose to be competitive financially in their bid to sign Yamamoto.
If there is a high-priced free agent available, it’s become a safe bet that the Dodgers are going to be in the mix. Even more than that, the Dodgers are in serious need of rotation help at the moment.
Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May are questionable to pitch at all in 2024 while Clayton Kershaw is a free agent and is far from a sure thing given his age and injury history if he were to return to Los Angeles. Of course, the Dodgers are going to be players for Ohtani as well. But the franchise’s pursuit of a championship has virtually no boundaries, so expect them to go hard after Yamamoto as well.
The Bronx Bombers have an interesting combination of cash and desperation. Following a disastrous 2023 campaign, the Yankees will be under pressure to spend and make a big splash this winter. If they can’t find a way to get Ohtani, that splash could happen by signing Yamamoto.
Acquiring an outfielder or two might be a bigger priority, but adding an elite pitcher beyond Gerrit Cole is important too. The Yankees obviously have a long history with Japanese pitchers, most recently signing Masahiro Tanaka to a seven-year deal in 2024. They are also capable of throwing money around when they have to, making them a team to watch closely.
Bookmakers list the Mets as the betting favorite to sign Yamamoto, which makes sense on several fronts. Owner Steve Cohen has sent the message that money isn’t going to be a big obstacle with regard to how the team plans to operate.
Signing Kodai Senga last offseason worked out well for New York, so there shouldn’t be any trepidation in signing another star pitcher from Japan. While Yamamoto has some risk as an undersized pitcher who would have to adjust to the big leagues, signing the 25-year-old to help front their rotation might actually be less risky than relying on Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander to do so at their advanced ages, which was the team’s strategy last season.
Of course, it’s not a slam dunk that the Mets will get Yamamoto, even if they’re the betting favorites. It remains to be seen how the new president of baseball operations David Stearns will approach the offseason. But the Mets need rotation help and have a lot of money, making Yamamoto a perfect fit.
Yoshinobu Yamamoto contract prediction
There seems to be no doubt that Yamamoto will surpass the seven-year, $155 million deal that Tanaka got from the Yankees in 2014. To date, that’s the largest contract an international player with no MLB experience has ever received. The question is how much more money and how many more years will Yamamoto get.
Since he’s only 25, Yamamoto could ask for a commitment of 10 years or more if there are enough serious bidders. Even if he doesn’t get that many guaranteed years, an eight or nine-year contract seems like a safe bet. With a contract of that length, it’s inevitable for the total value of the contract to surpass $200 million.
An eight-year deal worth $200 million would almost seem like a bargain if Yamamoto comes close to living up to his reputation compared to some of the other contacts top-flight pitchers have received. Obviously, Yamamoto doesn’t have as much leverage as pitchers with a proven track record in the majors. On the other hand, he’s younger than any other free-agent pitcher. For that reason, Yamamoto is likely to end up with a contract between eight and 10 years long that’s worth somewhere between $200 and $250 million.