Yoshinobu Yamamoto (Orix Buffaloes), considered one of the best starting pitchers in the history of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), is expected to sign a massive $200 million contract this offseason to join the Major Leagues.
In an article titled “St. Louis Cardinals Interested in Free Agent Pitchers Like Aaron Nola, Sonny Gray,” Major League Baseball’s Trader’s Report (MLBTR) reported on Sept. 9 (ET) that “Nola and Gray are expected to sign fairly modest deals. It’s hard to imagine a Shohei Ohtani-level deal for someone who had elbow surgery and didn’t pitch next year, and it’s not a Yamamoto-level deal for someone who’s only 25 and is expected to get close to $200 million.
The Cardinals, whose starting rotation collapsed this season and finished last in the NL Central, are expected to focus heavily on bolstering their rotation this winter. Of this year’s starters, Jordan Montgomery and Zach Flaherty were traded last summer, Adam Wainwright is retiring after this season, and the only reliable starters are Miles Myers and Steven Matz.
St. Louis president John Mozeliak recently said in his end-of-season interview that “adding depth to our three starting pitchers is a major priority this offseason.”
According to Derek Gould of the local St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Nola and Gray would be a great fit for the Cardinals, and the team plans to see what they think. 무지개토토
Nola and Gray are considered top-tier free agent starting pitchers. MLB.com’s free agent rankings have Nola as the No. 6 overall and No. 2 starting pitcher, while CBS Sports’ rankings have Nola as the No. 5 overall and No. 2 starter, and Gray as the No. 12 overall and No. 8 starter.
“Nola and Gray are likely to receive qualifying offers (QOs) in their first year of free agency, which would cost the Cardinals a $500,000 international bonus and the second overall pick in next year’s draft,” MLBTR wrote, adding that “the Cardinals are among the teams that have been monitoring Yamamoto, but would also consider reuniting with Montgomery.
He went on to estimate that Yamamoto’s price tag could reach $200 million. That’s too much for the Reds to afford, and like Ohtani, Yamamoto is out of their realm of interest, MLBTR notes. Nola and Gray, on the other hand, are expected to sign free agent deals in the $50 million to $100 million range.
Yamamoto started 23 games and threw 164 innings this season, posting a 16-6 record, 1.21 ERA, .727 winning percentage, and 169 strikeouts. He led the Pacific League in wins, ERA, strikeouts, and winning percentage.
He is also a favorite to win the Pacific League Pitcher of the Year award for the third consecutive year starting in 2021. No Asian player has ever been as close to perfect as Yamamoto before reaching the major leagues. As a result, Yamamoto is on pace to break Masahiro Tanaka’s record of seven years and $155 million for the most money ever paid to an Asian player when he joined the New York Yankees in 2014.
Yamamoto is ranked No. 2 in the CBS Sports free agent rankings, behind only Ohtani. Nola and Montgomery, of course, are rated much higher than Blake Snell (No. 6 overall), who booked this year’s NL Cy Young Award. New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman traveled to Japan on March 9 to watch Yamamoto throw a no-hitter against the Chiba Lotte Marines.
After the Japan Series, Yamamoto plans to pursue his major league debut through the posting system. He is expected to be posted in early December.