Japanese pitching sensation Yoshinobu Yamamoto has officially entered the MLB free agency market, opening the door for major league teams to vie for his talents. Among the potential suitors, the New York Yankees stand out as a contender for his services.
Yamamoto’s illustrious career in Japan has catapulted him to the forefront of the free-agent pitching market this offseason. With his impressive 2023 statistics, including a .307 batting average, 26 home runs, 97 RBIs, 20 stolen bases, and a remarkable .881 OPS, any team in need of a starting pitcher would be wise to pursue him.
Let’s delve deeper into the potential market for Yamamoto, examine past contracts as reference points, and explore the ideal contract that the Yankees can offer Yamamoto, along with various negotiation scenarios.
If I were representing Yamamoto, I would set the baseline at seven years and $168 million, with room for discussion at eight years and $176 million. Why these numbers? They draw inspiration from Masahiro Tanaka’s contract with the Yankees, adjusting for the premium associated with a decade of inflation and market conditions.
Recent contracts like Aaron Nola’s seven-year, $172 million extension also play a role in establishing this baseline. Yamamoto, at just 25 years old, has the potential to outperform Nola, making this contract offer reasonable.
Additionally, with Nola off the market, teams competing for Yamamoto’s signature will likely engage in a bidding war, further elevating his value.
While the potential rewards of signing Yamamoto are enticing, there are inherent risks in bringing international talents to MLB. The transition to the higher level of competition can be challenging, as past examples like Kei Igawa and Kosuke Fukudome illustrate. Teams must exercise risk management when considering such investments.
The Rodon Factor
The Yankees have already committed substantial funds to Gerrit Cole, Aaron Judge, Carlos Rodon, and Giancarlo Stanton. The Rodon signing has been viewed by some as a mistake, and if his performance continues on a downward trajectory, it could become a regrettable investment.
To mitigate the risk associated with Rodon’s contract, the Yankees should consider an investment in Yamamoto. By bolstering their pitching rotation with another high-caliber starter, they can offset the financial burden of previous signings.
The Yankees’ objectives of getting younger and more athletic align with Yamamoto’s profile. The combination of signing Yamamoto and acquiring Juan Soto through a trade would address their primary concerns and position them for playoff contention.
The Potential Deal
If I were representing the Yankees, my initial offer to Yamamoto would be a seven-year contract with an annual salary of approximately $25 million, totaling $175 million. This proposal draws inspiration from the Tanaka deal, adjusted for inflation and market conditions.
I would be willing to negotiate up to $29 million per year over seven years, crossing the $200 million threshold if that’s Yamamoto’s preference, resulting in a total contract value of $203 million. However, I would prefer to add more years to the contract rather than significantly increasing the yearly average.
Considering Yamamoto’s likely preference for security, an eight-year deal could be more appealing. If Yamamoto insists on an annual salary exceeding $30 million, a six-year, $32 million contract worth $192 million could be an alternative.
The Ideal Deal
The ideal contract for both parties could be an eight-year agreement with an annual salary of $27 million, amounting to $216 million. With a signing bonus, the total compensation package could range between $225 million and $230 million. However, I would be cautious about exceeding $230 million.
If negotiations demand a higher figure, a ninth year at $25 million per year ($225 million total) with a signing bonus of up to $15 million (totaling $240 million) could be considered. This balanced offer ensures fairness for both sides.
In summary, I anticipate that negotiations will commence around $200 million, with a maximum offer of $240 million. Given the Yankees’ offseason needs, prioritizing Yamamoto should be a top priority.
Ultimately, Yamamoto’s arrival in MLB promises to be an exciting development, and teams like the Yankees will eagerly pursue this exceptional talent to bolster their rosters.