Japanese star right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto remains on the radar of every Major League Baseball team. The 25-year-old pitcher is expected to move over to the MLB for the 2024 season. According to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, Chicago Cubs President Jed Hoyer is traveling to Japan to see the Orix Buffaloes ace in person.
Since making his Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) debut in 2017, Yamamoto is 68-28 with an ERA of 1.84. In his last start, Yamamoto notched his second career no-hitter. Yamamoto is on his way to a third-consecutive season with an ERA below 2.00. In 2022, Yamamoto earned the second Eiji Sawamura Award of his career. The award recognizes the top starting pitcher in NPB. As recent as August, the Cubs were one of several franchises that employed scouts to catch the blue-chip talent's start.
He extended his scoreless innings streak to 42 and has a record of 14-5 with a 1.26 ERA this season.
As soon as the offseason begins in NPB, negotiations between Yamamoto and MLB teams are expected. Reports say the pitcher could fetch a deal north of $200 million. Scouts rank Yamamoto a full grade over Kodai Senga. Senga earned a trip to the All-Star Game during his first season with the New York Mets. Yamamoto is five years younger than Senga and is posting astronomical numbers- better than Senga in Japan.
Furthermore, Yamamoto has been compared to Masahiro Tanaka, who signed a seven-year, $155 million contract with the New York Yankees in 2014.
Without a doubt, Shohei Ohtani is garnering plenty of attention when it comes to free agency, as he will hit the market the day following the 2023 World Series. However, Yamamoto's success in Japan demonstrates his potential in the MLB and will have every franchise's undivided attention this offseason.
Although Chicago has a payroll of $166 million next season, the Cubs will certainly be in the market for starting pitching during the 2023 offseason.