Watch out baseball fans; Japan’s next big star looks to be on the move.
Pitching sensation Yoshinobu Yamamoto is set to make a high-profile switch to Major League Baseball (MLB) during the offseason, after he was posted as a free agent by Japan’s Orix Buffaloes on Monday.
The 25-year-old is expected to attract the attention of the league’s biggest franchises and could receive a highly-lucrative contract worth around $200m, per Reuters.
A bidding war is expected to get underway on Tuesday and will run until January 4.
Yamamoto has certainly impressed during the early part of his career, being awarded the Eiji Sawamura Award – given to the top starting pitcher in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) – on three occasions.
He was 16-6 this last season with a 1.21 ERA; form that saw him win his third consecutive Triple Crown – in wins, ETA and strikeouts – in the NPB’s Pacific League.
The right-hander, who boasts a fastball comfortably in the mid-to-high 90s, has enjoyed success on the international stage as well, helping his country win gold at the Tokyo Olympics, before clinching the World Baseball Classic in March.
A free agent with his talent, at his age, is extremely rare in baseball. According to The Athletic, the New York Yankees, New York Mets, Boston Red Sox and the LA Dodgers are just some of the teams with a reported interest.
Yamamoto is set to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui and current star Shohei Ohtani who have made the switch from Japan to the MLB.
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