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All the details of Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s contract, including opt-outs linked to health

Yamamoto can opt out of his deal with six years and $170 million remaining — as long as he stays healthy.

Newly acquired Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto poses for a photo with manager Dave Roberts and general manager Brandon Gomes during an introductory press conference on December 27, 2023 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, CA. Photo by Kiyoshi Mio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Nearly two weeks after word first broke that Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto was signing with the Dodgers, the full details of his record 12-year, $325 million deal — the largest ever given to a pitcher — have begun to emerge. The Associated Press reports that the contract includes not one but two opt-out clauses, the timing of which are dependent on Yamamoto’s health — and more specifically, the status of his prized right elbow.

Here’s the skinny, per the AP. If Yamamoto has Tommy John surgery, or if he’s otherwise on the injured list due to a right elbow injury for at least 134 consecutive days at some point from 2024 to 2029, Yamamoto would not be able to opt out of the deal until after either the 2031 or 2033 World Series. If he avoids Tommy John surgery or that 134-day stint on the injured list, however, the opt outs will come after 2029 and 2031. In short: Any significant elbow injury would result in a two-year delay.

Yamamoto will be 31 after the 2029 season, and opting out at that point would mean passing up on the final six years and $170 million on his deal with L.A. An injury, however, could significantly impact his market — Yamamoto will be 33 then, an age at which teams would likely be far more reticent to hand him another long-term contract. Still, the presence of the clauses in his contract, injury conditions or not, gives the 25-year-old some control over his future should he out-pitch his contract or simply decide he wants a change of scenery.

With the prevalence of elbow injuries leading to Tommy John surgery these days, seeing provisions in long-term contracts like this will very likely become more and more common moving forward. Yamamoto is a three-time MVP in Japan’s NPB. Last season, he was 17-6 with a 1.16 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 176 strikeouts in 171 innings, affirming his status as one of the most talented pitchers in the world regardless of league or competition level.

You can understand why the Dodgers would want some assurances in case of injury, given the riskiness inherent to starting pitchers and the health troubles that Los Angeles has had to deal with over the last year or two. Yamamoto joins a Dodgers rotation that has Walker Buehler coming off Tommy John surgery while both Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May will start the season on the injured list due to elbow operations of their own. Tyler Glasnow, recently acquired in a trade with the Rays, has Tommy John in his past as well, and has yet to crack 120 innings in a season due to a laundry list of ailments. If the Dodgers are finally going to get over the hump and capture their first full-season World Series title since 1988, a healthy Yamamoto will be a big reason why.