LA Dodgers: Yoshinobu Yamamoto signs 12-year, £256.2m agreement

The Los Angeles Dodgers have rewritten the record books by landing Japanese pitching sensation Yoshinobu Yamamoto in a staggering 12-year, £256.2 million ($325 million) deal.

The contract, the largest ever given to a Japanese player and one of the biggest in MLB history, signals the Dodgers’ unwavering commitment to securing championship-caliber pitching for years to come. They will pay a “posting fee” of $50.6 million (£39.9 million), intended to compensate Japanese teams, for the 25-year-old, who enters from Orix Buffaloes. Multiple organisations expressed interest in Yamamoto, such as the New York Yankees. 

The 25-year-old right-hander, nicknamed “Yoshi,” dominated Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) with the Orix Buffaloes, pitching to a 2.22 ERA and striking out 1,225 batters in just 859 innings over five seasons. His elite combination of a 98 mph fastball, pinpoint control, and devastating slider captivated the baseball world, making him the most coveted pitching prospect in the international market.

The Dodgers signed his countryman Shohei Ohtani to a record-setting 10-year, $700 million (£558 million) deal earlier in December. Ohtani stated a week ago that he was deferring the majority of his record-setting contract in order to assist the team in turning around in Major League Baseball.

The Dodgers, fresh off their 2023 World Series victory, faced stiff competition from multiple teams for Yamamoto’s services. However, their deep pockets and championship pedigree ultimately proved too enticing for the young star.

Yamamoto stated via interpreter at his introductory press conference at Dodger Stadium, “This is a fantasy come true.” “It has always been a goal of mine to play for the Dodgers, a franchise with a lengthy history and devoted supporters. I am ecstatic to be a part of this illustrious group as they strive for additional championships.”

The hefty price tag for Yamamoto’s services raised eyebrows across the league. The £256.2 million deal surpasses the previous record for a Japanese player, set by Shohei Ohtani’s £206 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels in 2018. Additionally, it ranks third all-time in MLB history behind Mike Trout’s £357 million deal with the Angels and Gerrit Cole’s £324 million contract with the New York Yankees.

However, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman remains unfazed by the eye-popping figures. “Yoshinobu is a generational talent,” Friedman stated. “We believe he has the potential to be a cornerstone of our pitching staff for the next decade-plus. His talent, work ethic, and character are exactly what we look for in a Dodger.”

Yamamoto’s arrival instantly bolsters a Dodgers pitching staff already boasting stars like Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, and Julio Urías. His presence fills a critical need for the team, as longtime ace Kershaw nears the end of his career and Buehler recovers from Tommy John surgery.

While concerns about the long-term financial implications of such a massive contract are inevitable, the immediate impact of Yamamoto’s signing on the Dodgers’ championship aspirations is undeniable. With a young ace now spearheading a formidable pitching staff, the Los Angeles Dodgers are poised to remain a dominant force in Major League Baseball for years to come.