Dodgers sign Japanese star Yamamoto to 12-year $325M deal

Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports
The Dodgers sign the best pitcher on the free agent market with the biggest deal for a pitcher in MLB history.

LOS ANGELES — After weeks of speculation and bidding wars, the Dodgers have landed the best pitcher on the free agent market to a 12 year, $325 million contract. I know what you are thinking: “Is it deferred?” The answer is no, and rightfully so when you are getting the top arm on the market.  Yoshinobu Yamamoto is now a Los Angeles Dodger and has teamed up with his former World Baseball Classic teammate Shohei Ohtani. $1.1 billion have now been committed in some fashion towards those two players, and the Dodgers now have the two best players on the free agent market on the same team. This move has changed the landscape of the league and further proven that the Dodgers took all of the talk and criticism to heart. 

After the disappointing loss in the 2023 NLDS, the Dodgers had a lot to think about. Would they move on from Dave Roberts? Would they make major changes to the roster? Would anybody be held accountable? Well, it seems the answer was to nab the top two players in the free agent market. Yamamoto brings a high 90’s fastball that does reach up in the triple digits, a wipeout splitter that disappears over the plate, and a looping curveball that locks opposing hitters up. Furthermore, Yamamoto is only 25 years old, and in the prime of his career, something you usually do not see from a talent this huge coming out of Japan. He is also the 3 time reigning champion of the Sawamura Award, which is the Japanese equivalent to a Cy Young award, so he has proven not to be a flash in the pan, but rather a budding superstar in baseball. 

Now, the Dodgers have one of the best rotations in recent memory, and that is without Shohei Ohtani until 2025. Yamamoto almost certainly becomes their ace, with recently acquired Tyler Glasnow, Walker Buehler, Bobby Miller and Emmett Sheehan right behind him in a stacked rotation. Add in Ohtani in 2025, and you have a starting five that could resemble an All-Star game. This move is a massive one when it comes to the baseball side, with Yamamoto being a centerpiece of the rotation for the next decade plus, with a few exceptions.

It was reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan, that Yamamoto did include two opt-outs in his deal, although we do not know the specifics of said details in the deal. However, it was not without stress and drama in the recent days. Multiple reports have said that the Mets offered the exact same contract that he signed with the Dodgers, the Yankees only offered $300 million, but at 10 years, to make it a higher Average Annual Value. 

So what does all of that matter right? Well, it tells me that he just simply wanted to be a Dodger regardless of money. Sure, the Dodgers upped the price tag, but the Mets offered the same deal and he still chose Los Angeles. Shohei Ohtani was at the forefront of the recruitment as well, apparently sitting in on meetings during the free agent process. Although Yamamoto was not present with Ohtani at the Los Angeles Rams primetime victory over the Saints, it is clear that Shohei wanted Yamamoto in Dodger blue, and would help bring him here. 

The Dodgers are now the supervillain of the MLB of course, which now brings expectations. With the best player in baseball on the offensive side in 2024, and now the young phenom in Yamamoto at the top of the rotation, there will be talk about championship or bust with this team. However, the Dodgers have Ohtani and Yamamoto for the next decade at least, with an opportunity to gain more talent along the way during that time frame due to Ohtani’s deferred deal. The Dodgers had one of the most stacked off-seasons in recent memory, and much credit yet again has to be given to the front office. While they could’ve stopped after signing Ohtani, they and Shohei wanted more. Now, they have a young ace that is in the prime of his career, and hey, they still have plenty of assets and money under the luxury tax to get even more. “Scary Hours” is a bit of an understatement, it is now “Nightmare Hours” in Los Angeles.