There’s a “strong belief among MLB teams” that the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball will post ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto following the 2023 season, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. If that indeed comes to pass, he’d be the second high-profile player set to be posted from the top professional leagues in Asia next offseason; the Kiwoom Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization are also expected to post reigning KBO MVP Jung Hoo Lee, as covered here last month.
Yamamoto will command more attention between the two. The 24-year-old Yamamoto is already a four-time NPB All-Star and has taken home both the Pacific League MVP Award and the Sawamura Award (Japan’s equivalent to MLB’s Cy Young Award) in each of the past two seasons. It’s not hard to see why.
Dating back to Opening Day 2021, Yamamoto has compiled a comical 1.54 ERA while striking out 27.7% of his opponents against a tiny 5.5% walk rate. He’s averaged better than 7 1/3 innings per start along the way, hurling 10 complete games and six shutouts, and only yielded an average of 0.30 home runs per nine innings pitched. One of those shutouts was a no-hitter this past June. In just shy of 800 career innings in NPB, Yamamoto possesses a 1.84 ERA that already looks inhuman on the surface and becomes all the more impressive when you factor in his age. He debuted as an 18-year-old back in 2017, and that season’s 2.35 ERA is the highest mark of his career.
Scouts to whom Sherman spoke raved about Yamamoto’s potential in the big leagues, touting a heater that sits mid-90s and reaches the upper-90s, a “plus-plus” (i.e. 70-grade) splitter, a “world class” curveball, a quick delivery to the plate and the athleticism to field his position well. One evaluator speaking to Sherman tabbed him a “full [scouting] grade” (on the 20-80 scale) ahead of right-hander Kodai Senga, who signed a five-year, $75MM deal with the Mets this offseason.
Brandon Tew of Sports Info Solutions took a deep dive into Yamamoto’s no-hitter back in June, profiling the right-hander’s “electric” arsenal, highlighting some of his pitch grips and release points while providing some general scouting insight into the tantalizing young righty. The Athletic’s Keith Law wrote back in December that Yamamoto “might be a No. 1 starter in MLB and doesn’t have any of the reliever concerns that Senga carries,” suggesting that he could more than double Senga’s guarantee when he’s eventually posted.
That all depends on health and performance in 2023, of course. Yamamoto has been healthy and dominant to this point in his career, but all players (pitchers, in particular) are one major injury away from changing their outlook. Any scouting report on Yamamoto will point out that his slight frame — he’s listed at 5’10” and 170 pounds — is of at least come concern to big league scouts. There’s simply very little track record for pitchers of this size both holding up physically with a starter’s workload and performing at an elite level. That’s not to say Yamamoto can’t be an exception, of course; the general consensus seems to be that he has a very good chance of doing just that.
Yamamoto is expected suit up for Team Japan in next month’s World Baseball Classic, just as Lee is likely to be on South Korea’s team. MLB fans looking ahead to next offseason might want to keep an extra-close eye on the pair and on the WBC in general, as the tournament provides North American fans some rare access to not only see foreign talents of this caliber, but also to see them against high-end opposition.
If Yamamoto is indeed posted for MLB teams, he’ll be subject to the NPB-MLB posting system, which grants all 30 teams equal rights to negotiate with the player but subjects the signing team to what, in the case of Yamamoto, could be a particularly steep posting fee. The MLB club that eventually signs Yamamoto would need to pay the Buffaloes a fee that is equal to 20% of the contract’s first $25MM, plus 17.5% of the next $25MM and 15% of any dollars committed thereafter.
On, say, a $150MM contract — a purely speculative number for the sake of this example, and one that could ultimately prove low — that’d come out to a $24.375MM posting fee that needs to be paid out to the Buffaloes in addition to the money guaranteed to Yamamoto. Any additional earnings that come via contractual mechanisms like performance incentives, club options, etc. would also be subject to that 15% once the money becomes guaranteed.
If the Buffaloes opt not to post Yamamoto next winter, they could do so again following the 2024 season as well. NPB players aren’t eligible for unrestricted free agency until they’ve compiled nine years of service time. Yamamoto, despite his youth, is entering his seventh season in NPB.
deGrom Texas Ranger
Why is it that the Rangers are always rumored to be a top suitor for these Asian guys, until they decide to overpay some random American MLB free agent who is twice as expensive and half as good? Both these guys seem like potential superstars. They were in deeply on Ohtani, Suzuki, and Senga and still blew all those. Even if they are top 5 for all these guy, you would expect them to have gotten more than just Darvish amongst all the talented guys. Maybe, they can sign that Bonds-like left fielder (minus the power and speed) next year though!
Nice. Guy should carve up MLB batter’s like he’s facing little league batters.
Other than senga, are there any other players that got posted that got signed by mlb teams? Just wondering
No notable ones
Well, I’m not sure if your question was intended to be as specific as “posted” or you were just asking about other players from Japan that transferred over to MLB, but Yoshida (LF/Red Sox) and Fujinami (RP/A’s) were also signed out of Japan this offseason.
I believe they were both free agents though. He was asking about posting fees I believe as you mentioned.
Yamamoto will likely set a record for most guaranteed money given to an Asian player right out of Japan so long as he stays healthy and dominant in 2023.
At least when/if Munetaka Murakami and Roki Sasaki get posted.
Senga was not part of the posting system. He was a free agent. Masataka Yoshida, and Shintaro Fujinami were posted.
Yoshida by the Red Sox
Could see the Red Sox making a run at Ohtani, Yamamoto, and Lee. A lot of money coming off the books.
Yoshida, Verdugo, Lee in the OF.
Rotation of Ohtani, Yamamoto, Bello, Whitlock, Houck.
Now that would be super fun (unfortunately incredibly unrealistic too)
I find it much more likely that we get Yamamoto than Ohtani. Besides, I think Ohtani is going to get a contract that will look really terrible sooner than later. There’s just too much injury risk for someone who both pitches and bats to give what could quite possibly be a half billion dollar deal
@dirty: Bloom is never going to pony that much money up. But it’s good to have dreams.
“Ooh, dream weaver
I believe we can reach the morning light…”
Bloom and co. are not likely breaking the bank on Ohtani. Yamamoto or Lee are interesting “maybe’s”. I feel like the market for Ohtani is going to come down to the Dodgers and Mets with the Giants saying they were in it til the end and the Angels saying they tried
Not Could. This is happening 100%
This is very interesting. Hopefully he has a big year and gets posted for next season.
I wonder if a team like St. Louis (who is very pitching needy after this year) finds a creative and lucrative deal for him. Who really knows where he’ll end up though.
Never count out Cohen/Mets especially after signing Senga. Think of it, a rotation with Yamamoto, Senga and Ohtani.
Pedro Martinez’s Mango Tree
The Red Sox, I’m sure, will have interest.
The Red Sox, I’m sure, will have their offer more than doubled by half the league. Interest Kings strike (out) again!
The story mentions that some clubs will be turned off by his 5’10” height and 170 pound weight. Dodgers got rid of a guy named Pedro Martinez who had similar size.
I wouldn’t get too wrapped up in trying to figure out the impact of the posting fee, as if it’s separate from the cost of signing a posted player. Teams will bid on his services based on the total cost of signing him and the total cost incudes the posting fee.
Is the posting fee counted toward luxury tax considerations?
Old timer 78
With YU extended by the Friars for 6 years maybe he can bring help from home.
It won’t happen, but I’d love the Orioles to step out on a FA pitcher like this. He’ll be 25/26 at time of posting, and as Steve wrote, 150 million might be light, seems like his services are going to be very desired.
Would he be the top free agent pitcher next off season? Better then Othani (as a pitcher)? But… isn’t it almost certain there’s a TJ for his future MLB team, cause 800 NPB innings since 18 is just wow.
1.54 ERA since opening day 2021?!?!! What type of wizard is this guy!
IIRC Julio Urias is also an FA after ’23. I reckon he would be the SP of choice after Ohtani.
This one belongs to the Reds
Until there’s a real international draft, these guys will always end up with large markets .
If he were subject to an international draft, he’d never come to MLB. Why play for under a million a year in MLB when you can make way more money at home in NPB? The thought of a free agent payday in 7 years is all well and good, but as the article notes, a pitcher’s earning potential can evaporate in a second.
Yes, Ohtani did it. He’s the exception who passed up money for a challenge, not the rule, and even he wouldn’t have made that decision if he’d been older at the time with less chance to reach MLB free agency.
He looks like a Dodger!