Japanese superstar ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto could be posted as soon as this week — the right-handed starting pitcher preparing to make the jump to Major League Baseball ahead of the 2024 season.
According to multiple reports, his Japanese team, the Orix Buffaloes, could post him as soon as Monday and could begin negotiating with teams on Tuesday.
The 25-year-old is the highest-coveted pitching-only prospect to emerge from Nippon Professional Baseball in some time — significantly more so than Kodai Senga, who finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting this season with the Mets.
Yamamoto has already won Japan’s pitching Triple Crown three times in his young career. He just put together his finest season yet, too, to further build the immense intrigue coming from North America.
In 24 starts with the Orix Buffaloes this season, he went 17-6 with a 1.16 ERA, 0.860 WHIP, and 176 strikeouts in 171.0 innings of work. His career ERA across seven seasons in Japan is 1.72.
Those numbers are promising an exorbitant contract — one that is estimated to come in around eight years and over $200 million. That’ll call for ace-like stuff in the majors and seemingly every big-market team is going to be in the hunt for him.
That includes the Mets and Yankees, even though the exact degree of their interest isn’t completely clear.
The Mets initially appeared all-in for Yamamoto when general manager Billy Eppler was the general manager of the club. He has a strong reputation in Japan and was the executive to come away with Shohei Ohtani’s signature when he made the jump to the Los Angeles Angels.
But the arrival of David Stearns as president of baseball operations — and the departure of Eppler — clouds the Mets’ vision slightly, though they’re still speculated to be one of the favorites.
It appears they have a significant proponent within their ranks, too, as Senga reportedly was lobbying for the Mets to go for his compatriot this offseason.
The Yankees are also in desperate need to find some legitimate starting depth behind AL Cy Young Award winner, Gerrit Cole.
Carlos Rodon had a miserable debut season in the Bronx after signing a six-year, $162 million deal last winter. Nestor Cortes regressed from an All-Star 2022 and Luis Severino once again could find his stuff when he was able to stay healthy.
For a team that missed the playoffs and is in a 14-year World Series title drought, Hal Steinbrenner might have to tweak his frugal ways and make a couple of big splashes this offseason. Yamamoto would certainly be one of them.