The price tag for Japanese “monster pitcher” Yoshinobu Yamamoto (25, Orix Buffaloes), one of the biggest names in Major League Baseball’s free agency market, is skyrocketing.

In a column titled “Major League Baseball Winter Meetings Preview,” ESPN’s Jeff Passan predicted the fate of several players in free agency on Jan. 1 (KST).

“The New York Yankees, New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs are the favorites to land the 25-year-old right-hander, while the San Francisco Giants, Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies are also expected to be in the mix,” he wrote.

With so many big clubs interested in Yamamoto, the asking price is skyrocketing. Fasan writes, “Officials with clubs trying to land Yamamoto told ESPN that his price tag seems to be rising by the day. Multiple sources put the price at more than $200 million (about 259.8 billion won).” “Another said it could be more than $250 million ($324.7 billion), including posting fees owed to his original club, Oryx.”

Yamamoto is arguably the best starting pitcher in NPB, and this year he pitched in 23 regular season games, posting a 16-6 record with a 1.21 ERA and 196 strikeouts. Yamamoto became the first pitcher in NPB history to win four titles (wins, ERA, strikeouts, and winning percentage) in three consecutive years, a feat that earned him the Sawamura Award, which recognizes the NPB’s top pitcher, for the third consecutive year starting in 2021.

With a fastball that tops out at 159 km/h and a diverse arsenal that includes a two-seam, cutter, slider, curveball, and forkball, Yamamoto is widely regarded as an immediate 1-2 starter in the major leagues. With so many teams looking to bolster their starting staffs in the Stovepipe League, Yamamoto’s price tag may be higher than expected.

“Many teams want to add Yamamoto to their starting rotation, and he could receive the second-largest contract for a pitcher in history, behind Gerrit Cole’s $324 million deal with the Yankees,” Passan said, adding that Yamamoto plans to meet with teams after the Winter Meetings to make a decision. Yamamoto, who officially applied for the post with the Major League Baseball office on March 21, will have 45 days to negotiate from March 22 to Jan. 5 next year. Interest in Yamamoto’s destination has been heating up as much as that of Shohei “Idoryu” Ohtani, the biggest offseason storyline.

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