Dodgers land coveted free agent RHP Yoshinobu Yamamoto from Japan in billion-dollar offseason
Dec 21, 2023, 10:33 PM | Updated: 10:40 pm
(Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
The Los Angeles Dodgers have invested well over $1 billion in three players this offseason after reports that Japanese free agent starter Yoshinobu Yamamoto picked L.A. on Thursday.
Yamamoto and the Dodgers reportedly agreed to a 12-year contract worth $325 million with a $50 million signing bonus and no deferrals. Los Angeles has to pay a posting fee of $50.6 million, as well. The deal is pending a physical.
Yamamoto’s deal piles on the $700 million contract to two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani (10 years) and pitcher Tyler Glasnow’s $136.5 million extension (five years). No other club has committed $200 million so far this winter, and as USA Today’s Bob Nightengale pointed out, the 29 other teams have spent less than $900 million combined.
Yamamoto upped Gerrit Cole’s $324 million contract with the New York Yankees as the most lucrative free agent deal for a starting pitcher in MLB history.
This all came without Yamamoto throwing one pitch in MLB.
Yamamoto is 25 years old and won three straight Sawamura Awards, NPB’s version of the Cy Young in Japan, before getting posted by the Orix Buffaloes. He led the league in wins (16-6), strikeouts (169 in 164 innings) and ERA (1.21) last season for the third consecutive year.
He is 5-foot-10 with an arsenal that includes an upper 90s fastball, a splitter and a curveball.
The Yankees were also considered favorites to land him. The Yankees reportedly offered 10 years and $300 million to pair Yamamoto with Cole, while the Mets had the same offer as the one he took with Los Angeles.
Looking at the NL West
The National League West has dominated headlines all offseason, not only with the Dodgers’ gargantuan spending. The Arizona Diamondbacks have built off their World Series squad with the additions of third baseman Eugenio Suarez and starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez while re-signing outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. The D-backs will set their franchise record for payroll after an 84-78 campaign.
The San Francisco Giants signed Korean star outfielder Jung Hoo Lee. The San Diego Padres traded away superstar outfielder Juan Soto, outfielder Trent Grisham, infielder Matt Carpenter and signed Japanese reliever Yuki Matsui.
The Dodgers won 100 games last season but fell in the NLDS for the second straight October, this time in a sweep by the Diamondbacks despite their massive payroll disparity and 16-win difference during the regular season.
L.A. has won the division in 10 of 11 seasons but only has one World Series crown to show for it from the shortened 2020 campaign.
Anything can happen during the MLB postseason as shown time and time again, but the Dodgers have played their role in adding expensive, high-end talent in an attempt to limit variance.
Yamamoto to the Cactus League
Thursday’s news also adds further intrigue to the Cactus League in Arizona this spring, which was already going to have millions of eyes on Ohtani after moving from the Angels to the Dodgers. Yamamoto’s first start in a Dodgers uniform is set be in the Valley during spring training.
As for the Dodgers and Diamondbacks matching up in the regular season, they will face each other 13 times with the first series starting April 29 at Chase Field.
Who are the top free agent pitchers left on the market?
Yamamoto breaking the record is probably good news for reigning NL Cy Young Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery at the top of the free agent food chain among starting pitchers.
Other free agent starters include Clayton Kershaw, Shota Imanaga, Marcus Stroman, Lucas Giolito and Michael Lorenzen.