After weeks of speculation and a bidding war that attracted pretty much all of the biggest teams in the sport, Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto has made his decision. The 25-year-old righty is officially set to make his MLB debut in 2024 after signing a 12-year, $325 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Yamamoto will look to follow in the footsteps of several Japanese pitchers who have made a successful jump to the Majors in recent years, joining the likes of Kodai Senga, Yu Darvish and Shohei Ohtani, among others. While he’s not a two-way unicorn, his prowess on the mound matches up well with just about all of the above names: Yamamoto has been utterly dominant across his seven seasons in Nippon Professional Baseball, with a 1.82 career ERA.
He authored a fantastic NPB season in 2023, going 16-6 with a 1.21 ERA and 169 strikeouts — the capper on a remarkable three-year run in which the righty went 49-16 with a 1.44 ERA and 580 strikeouts while winning three straight pitching triple crowns and with three straight Sawamura Awards (the NPB version of the Cy Young). Oh, and he threw a no-hitter in September with multiple MLB executives looking on in the stands.
Yoshinobu Yamamoto just tossed the second no-hitter of his career.— Tyler Milliken ⚾️ (@tylermilliken_) September 9, 2023
The things I would do to see him in a Red Sox uniform… hasn’t allowed an ER in his last 42 IP.
All it costs is money and you’re in the perfect spot to spend. Just turned 25 last month.pic.twitter.com/PO8yfTlqCJ
He also made his presence at the World Baseball Classic in March, as he had a 2.45 ERA over 7.1 innings to help Japan win the tournament. While there’s always some risk involved in signing a pitcher who’s never faced Major League hitters before — and there’s some risk involved in giving out this type of money to a pitcher generally — there’s very little reason to think Yamamoto isn’t headed for stardom in the States. He’s overwhelmed Japanese competition, and with a mid-90s fastball, tight, biting curveball and wipeout splitter, his stuff certainly looks the part.
The Dodgers have decided to throw all the money in the world at getting back to the top of the baseball mountain, adding Yamamoto to the roster in addition to Shohei Ohtani. Los Angeles has become the clear favorite to win the World Series at DraftKings Sportsbook, priced at +425 as the Yamamoto news sinks in. They’ll surely see those numbers improve a bit once the team confirms the signing.