Pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto of Team Japan pitches in the second inning against Team Dominican Republic during the baseball opening round Group A game on day five of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium on July 28, 2021 in Fukushima, Japan. (Photo by Koji Watanabe/Getty Images)
By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network
A report from Yahoo! Sports Japan indicates the New York Yankees plan to offer Japanese pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto a contract worth more than the $155 million they signed with Masahiro Tanaka nearly a decade ago.
Yamamoto, a starter for the Orix Buffaloes in Nippon Professional Baseball, threw a no-hitter in his last start on September 9, a 4-0 win against the Chiba Lotte Marines, and Yankees general manager was in attendance. He threw nine innings, allowing one walk, one hit batter, and striking out eight with 102 pitches facing 29 batters.
Yamamoto is expected to be posted to sign with a Major League Baseball club in the upcoming offseason.
An MLB official told Yahoo! Sports Japan, “It’s clear that the Yankees are moving to acquire Yamamoto.The best proof is that GM Cashman personally went to Japan on Yamamoto’s scheduled pitching date.”
Yamamoto’s fastball velocity averaged 96 mph during Saturday night’s game. The Japanese star is also in contention for the NPB Pitching Triple Crown for the third straight season, and he is leading the league with a 1.26 ERA, 14 wins, and 145 strikeouts.
In December 2013, the Yankees signed Masahiro Tanaka to a seven-year, $155 million contract and paid a $20 million posting fee to his former NPB club, the Tokyo Rakuten Golden Eagles.
The posting agreement between the NPB and Major League Baseball has since been revised, with Major League teams paying a percentage of the total value of the contract as a posting fee, rather than bidding for the opportunity to sign a player, as was done under the previous agreement.
The report also indicated the Yankees hope to acquire Roki Sasaki of the Chiba Lotte Marines, who turns 25 and would be eligible to be signed as an international free agent in 2027, but could be posted before then.
The Yankees have signed three players from Japan via the posting system: Tanaka in 2013, pitcher Kei Igawa in 2006, and Dominican pitcher Ramon Ramirez in 2003.
Tanaka pitched seven seasons for the Yankees, making 173 career starts and going 78-46 with a 3.46 ERA. He returned to Japan following the 2020 season and is pitching for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in NPB.
Igawa appeared in 16 games over two seasons with the Yankees, spending the bulk of the term of his five-year, $20 million contract at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Ramirez played nine season in the Major Leagues with the colorado Rockies, San Francisco Giants, New York Mets, Kansas City Royals, and Boston Red Sox, appearing in 424 games out of the bullpen with a 3.42 ERA in 434.2 innings of work.
Hideki Irabu, the first player from Japan to play for the Yankees, was signed as a free agent after the San Diego Padres purchased his rights from the Lotte Orions in 1997, prior to the first agreement reached between Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball to implement a posting system.