The Braves are in the market for a starting pitcher.
It was reported that the Braves “were a real threat” to sign Aaron Nola after he inked a deal with the Phillies. Soon following, it was reported they were seemingly shifting their focus to Sonny Gray.
But apparently, Alex Anthopoulos is leaving no stone unturned. According to MLB insider Steve Phillips, the Braves are “in on” Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who was just recently posted by the Orix Buffaloes of Nippon Professional Baseball on Monday.
"I think Atlanta does go to get a starting pitcher… they may need two starting pitchers."@StevePhillipsGM says the Braves will look at Sonny Gray and Yoshinobu Yamamoto among others to fill out their rotation for next season. #MLBNHotStove pic.twitter.com/YgAXAHxyMC
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) November 21, 2023
Yamamoto, a right-handed 25-year-old, is expected to garner a contract worth more than $200 million for his services, and if he pitches anything like he did in the NPB, that would be a bargain.
In 2023, Yamamoto went 16-6 with a 1.21 ERA in 24 starts, striking out 176 batters in 171 innings, adding another Eiji Sawamura Award — NPB’s equivalent to the Cy Young Award — to his trophy case.
Yamamoto’s fastball sits in the mid-to-high 90s, and he pairs it with an absolutely filthy splitter along with an above-average curveball and cutter.
He officially enters free agency at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning, and the Braves along with other clubs will have 45 days to ink him to a contract. Alex Anthopoulos hasn’t signed a free agent to a lucrative contract even close to what it will take to sign Yamamoto, but if reports about the offer to Aaron Nola (six years, $162 million) are true, then fans can rest assured money won’t be the reason a free agent doesn’t end up in a Braves uniform.
Now, there’s clearly risk with a deal like this. Will Yamamoto’s game translate to the MLB? His production in the NPB is eye-popping — 1.82 ERA and 0.935 WHIP across seven seasons. It is better than Yu Darvish’s numbers when he came over from the same league — 1.99 ERA and 0.985 WHIP; Yamamoto even has a higher strikeout rate and lower home run rate than his Japanese counterpart.
The countrymen were/are the same age (25 years old) when making the trip across the Pacific. Darvish then posted a 3.27 ERA and 1.196 WHIP in his first three MLB seasons, with three All-Star selections and two top-10 Cy Young finishes. Unfortunately, he underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2015 campaign, but that’s the risk you bear.
Yoshinobu Yamamoto would be a home run signing for a Braves club that hasn’t dipped its toes in the free agent pitching market much. This wouldn’t be dipping their toes, though. Signing Yamamoto would be Alex Anthopoulos jumping head first into the deep end.
Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire