Major League Baseball teams, including the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets, are interested in Yoshinobu Yamamoto (Orix Buffaloes), who is considered the “ace” of Nippon Professional Baseball.
Yamamoto was drafted by the Orix in the fourth round of the 2016 Nippon Professional Baseball Draft and has pitched in 162 career games (108 starts) in the NPB, posting a 63-26 record with 13 complete games and seven shutouts and a 1.93 ERA.
Yamamoto became known as Japan’s “ace” in 2021, when he went 18-5 with a 1.39 ERA in 26 games (six complete games, four shutouts), striking out 206 batters in 193⅔ innings, and in 2022, when he went 15-5 with a 1.68 ERA in 26 games (four complete games, two shutouts), striking out 205 batters in 193 innings, and winning four Pitcher of the Year awards, the Sawamura Award, and regular season MVP.
He has also excelled on the international stage. At the 2019 Premier12, Yamamoto pitched out of the bullpen to win the title with a 1.80 ERA in five games (five innings), and at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, he started two games (11⅓ innings) and posted a 1.59 ERA to win the gold medal.
He also impressed at the World Baseball Classic (WBC), the most important international tournament for pitchers on their way to the major leagues. Yamamoto went 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA in two games (one start), including a no-hitter against Australia in Group B and a relief appearance against Mexico, a team loaded with major leaguers, in which he allowed two runs (two earned) in 3 1/3 innings.
In the regular season this year, he was equally impressive. In 13 games, Yamamoto has been “steady” with a 9-3 record and a 1.74 ERA with 103 strikeouts in 93⅓ innings pitched. Yamamoto currently leads the Pacific League in wins, ranks second in ERA, and third in strikeouts.
Considered the “best” pitcher in Japan at the moment, Yamamoto’s popularity is on the rise. On August 8, Yamamoto threw 125 pitches, including 13 strikeouts over nine innings in a game that drew scouts from eight organizations, including the San Diego Padres, Toronto Blue Jays, Philadelphia Phillies, and Boston Red Sox.
Boston and the Mets are two teams that have not yet filed for “posting” and are openly expressing interest in Yamamoto. Boston is a club that has held onto Daisuke Matsuzaka, Koji Uehara, and Hideki Okajima in the past, and earlier this season signed Masataka Yoshida to a massive five-year, $90 million contract.
Boston.com, an affiliate of Boston’s influential Boston Globe, reported, “Boston was among the teams that scouted Yamamoto’s pitching. Yamamoto has been teammates with Yoshida for the past six seasons and has dominated Nippon Professional Baseball for the past few years,” adding that “Boston is eyeing the next top player to come out of Japan.”
“The Red Sox were able to get a pretty good scouting report from Yoshida, who played with Yamamoto for six seasons with the Orix. “Yamamoto is expected to be a free agent in the offseason, and the Red Sox will make a move to add him to the rotation,” said a source from CBS News Boston.
While the Red Sox are keeping an eye on Yamamoto, the Mets are not far behind. The Mets signed Kodai Senga to a five-year, $75 million contract earlier this season. Senga, who is considered a step below Yamamoto, is 7-5 with a 3.20 ERA in seven appearances this year. Having tasted Senga’s success, it is highly likely that the team will jump into the race to sign Yamamoto. 스포츠토토
“A very intriguing starting rotation option for the New York Mets next year and beyond would be 24-year-old Japanese professional baseball ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto, according to the US-based ‘SNY’. Mets general manager Billy Eppler has already traveled to Japan to watch Yamamoto this year,” confirming that the Mets are interested in signing him.
Eppler has a special affinity for Japanese players. As an assistant general manager with the New York Yankees, he helped bring in Masahiro Tanaka (now with Rakuten), while with the Los Angeles Angels, he acquired Shohei Ohtani, and last offseason he embraced Senga. There’s no guarantee that this experience will translate into Yamamoto’s signing, but it’s certainly an advantage.
Major League Baseball Trade-Rumors (MLBTR) recently ranked Yamamoto second in its power rankings of major leaguers entering free agency in 2023-2024. If Yamamoto can stay healthy, he could get a contract worth more than $200 million, which SNY believes will be bigger than Senga’s $75 million.
After this season, Yamamoto, along with Shota Imanaga (Yokohama DeNA Basestars) and Lee Jung-hoo (Kiwoom Heroes), will be challenging for the big leagues through the posting system. But for now, Yamamoto is getting the lion’s share of the attention. With the size of Yamamoto’s contract unlikely to be small, it will be interesting to see which team wins him over, as his value will only increase with more competition.