MLB Notebook: Yoshinobu Yamamoto named Japan’s top pitcher for third consecutive season

Photo credit:Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports
Cam Lewis
7 months ago
Yoshinobu Yamamoto has won what’ll likely be his third and final Eiji Sawamura Award.
The Sawamura Award is an honour bestowed upon the top starting pitcher in Nippon Professional Baseball each year, essentially making it Japan’s Cy Young.
Other winners from recent memory include Yu Darvish (2007), Masahiro Tanaka (2011, 2013), and Kenta Maeda (2010, 2015). Yamamoto is one of just five pitchers to win the award three times in a career and he’s only the second to do so in three consecutive years.
The righty posted a sparkling 1.16 ERA over 171 innings for the Orix Buffaloes during the regular season in 2023. Yamamoto had a 17-6 record over 24 starts and struck out 176 batters while walking only 28. His team is currently tied 1-1 in the Japan Series with the Hanshin Tigers.
The 25-year-old is expected to sign with a Major League team this winter but will have to go through the posting system because he doesn’t have 10 seasons of NPB service time. As per MLB.com, “The release fee will be 20 percent of the first $25 million plus 17.5 percent of the next $25 million plus 15 percent of the total guaranteed value exceeding $50 million.”
The Blue Jays are among a handful of teams who have scouted Yamamoto’s starts this season. Four of the five spots in Toronto’s rotation will likely be filled by Kevin Gausman, Jose Berrios, Chris Bassitt, and Yusei Kikuchi, but the fifth spot is up in the air.
Alek Manoah, Mitch White, and Bowden Francis are internal options to fill that spot but the Blue Jays could make an already-very-good rotation even better with the addition of Yamamoto, who’s arguably the best pitcher on the market this winter. That being said, the Blue Jays have a handful of other holes on their roster to address, so their dollars are more likely to be allocated to bats than arms.
Regardless, Yamamoto coming overseas to pitch in North America will be interesting to follow. The San Francisco Giants and New York Mets are two teams who appear to be early favourites to land Yamamoto.


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