What will happen to Yoshinobu Yamamoto (Orix Buffaloes) after he staged a “show of force” in front of New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and numerous major league scouts?
Yamamoto took the mound against the Chiba Rodeo Marines of the Nippon Professional Baseball 2023 at ZOZO Marine Stadium in Chiba, Chiba Prefecture, Japan, on April 9, throwing nine innings of shutout baseball, throwing 102 pitches, striking out eight and walking two (one hit and one walk).안전놀이터
Yamamoto is currently the “ace” pitcher in Nippon Professional Baseball. In the 2021-2022 season, Yamamoto became the first pitcher in Nippon Professional Baseball to win four pitching titles (wins, ERA, strikeouts, and winning percentage) for the second consecutive year, as well as the Pacific League regular season MVP and the Sawamura Award, a highly coveted honor that requires a number of criteria to be met.
After this season, Yamamoto will be eligible for the major leagues via the “posting system,” and after proving he can hold his own against the majors at the World Baseball Classic (WBC) in March, he is currently receiving interest from multiple clubs. Just look at his last nine starts.
New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman traveled to Japan to keep an eye on Yamamoto. Cashman’s visit to Japan was extremely unusual. According to multiple Japanese media outlets, it was the first time in six years that Cashman had visited Japan since 2017, when Shohei Ohtani was playing for the Nippon Ham Fighters and was on the verge of making it to the major leagues.
In addition to Cashman, a total of 30 scouts from multiple Major League Baseball teams, including the Pittsburgh Pirates, Los Angeles Angels, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Toronto Blue Jays, converged on ZOZO Marine Stadium. As it turned out, Yamamoto accomplished the feat of becoming the “100th” no-hitter in Nippon Professional Baseball history.
According to Japan’s Sankei Sports, after Yamamoto threw the no-hitter, Cashman told Japanese reporters, “It was great. Everyone who saw it was excited. It was a historic play. It was a great moment for the team, a great moment for the fans. I’m happy to be a part of this moment,” and gave a thumbs-up to Yamamoto. Cashman’s comments didn’t appear to be lip service.
Cashman pulled a ticket for Game 9 out of his pocket and showed it to the Japanese media, saying, “I will cherish this ticket. Maybe I’ll be able to get Yamamoto to sign it for me someday,” he said, smiling broadly, “I think I picked a really good game to come to.”
The news of Cashman’s visit to Japan to inspect Yamamoto, and Yamamoto’s no-hitter in that game for the second year in a row, has generated a lot of interest from local media in the United States. In particular, NBC Sports Boston published an article titled “Why the Boston Red Sox should go all-in on Yoshinobu Yamamoto” on the 12th, advocating for Yamamoto’s signing.
Yamamoto is considered a “step up” from Senga Kodai, who signed a five-year, $75 million contract with the New York Mets earlier this season. The numbers speak for themselves. Yamamoto has pitched in 169 games over seven seasons, with a record of 68-28, 32 holds, one save, and a 1.84 ERA. Senga, on the other hand, has pitched in 224 games over 11 seasons with an 87-44 record, 20 shutouts, one save, and a 2.59 ERA.
In terms of career ERA, Yamamoto has the edge. Furthermore, Senga has 444 strikeouts in 1089 career innings, while Yamamoto has only 225 strikeouts in 876 innings. Despite the difference in innings pitched, we can see that Yamamoto is much more reliable than Senga in terms of his pitches. For these reasons, the general consensus is that Yamamoto will get a bigger contract than Senga.
But what do the locals think of Yamamoto’s price tag? Earlier this season, Major League Baseball Trade Rumors (MLBTR) advocated for a bigger deal than Senga, predicting a total of $200 million (approx. 26.59 billion won). As of now, NBC Sports Boston is predicting a seven-year, $155 million deal, the same amount Masahiro Tanaka signed with the New York Yankees in 2014.
“Yamamoto’s posting fee will not be a major obstacle,” said Forbes on Dec. 12, adding, “The total amount of Yamamoto’s contract remains to be seen, but it could be well over $200 million. It’s rare for a pitcher this young and talented to hit the market. A number of major league teams will be competing for him.”
As Forbes noted, everything is subject to interpretation. However, Yamamoto’s no-hitter on Sept. 9 in front of Cashman and a slew of scouts likely played a big role in his value. After all, the Yankees have been nicknamed the “Evil Empire” for their ability to spend money on the best players in baseball. If the Yankees get their act together and jump into the bidding war, a $200 million contract may not be a pipe dream. In that case, Yamamoto would be the highest-priced player to make the jump from Asia to the big leagues.