When it comes to Japanese players who've made the successful switch to the Majors, some of the very best include the likes of Ichiro Suzuki, Shohei Ohtani, Hideki Matsui and Yu Darvish. Now, the Phillies reportedly have their sights set on the latest Japanese superstar.
As per Jon Heyman of the New York Post, the Phillies are apparently one of at least 10 teams who attended Yoshinobu Yamamoto's most recent start for Orix Buffaloes. Other teams scouting the pitcher on Wednesday included most of the big players, such as the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, Mets and Rangers.
The Phillies rotation has been one of the better ones during 2023, ranking 11th in the Majors in ERA, sixth in WHIP and strikeout-to-walk ratio, as well as tied-ninth in batting average. Of course there's always room for improvement, which is where Yamamoto comes in.
Hot commodity in Japan
The right-handed pitcher is arguably the hottest commodity in Japanese baseball right now. He's helped the Buffaloes win the past two Japan series, with them taking aim at a third consecutive championship this season.
Yamamoto has appeared in 18 games so far during the current Japan Pacific League campaign. He has a 12-5 record, while producing a 1.42 ERA, 0.929 WHIP and 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings.
The two-time Eiji Sawamura Award winner -- Japan's equivalent of the Cy Young -- also impressed during this year's World Baseball Classic. This included finishing with the second-most strikeouts (12) of all pitchers, as helped his country win their third championship.
Yamamoto has an excellent arsenal of pitches including a tremendous curveball, although the main two are his fastball and splitter. His four-seam fastball averages in the mid-90s, while the splitter sits around 90 mph.
About the only doubt surrounding the four-time All-Star is his durability and frame. Standing at 5 ft 10 and 169 pounds, there is some concern about him not being able to handle the physical demands of the North American game.
A bidding war
Regardless, Yamamoto is going to receive a lot of attention when -- as expected -- the Buffaloes post him. What will make this even more interesting, is he won't be limited by Major League Baseball's international bonus rules.
In other words, the 25-year-old will be allowed to sign any size contract he wants to, with all 30 teams having the same negotiating rights. As per Steve Adams of MLBTradeRumors, the Buffaloes will receive a fee equal to 20 percent of the contract’s first $25 million, plus 17.5 percent of the next $25 million and 15 percent of any dollars committed thereafter.
Money shouldn't be too much of an issue for the Phillies, as evidenced by having the fourth-highest Major League payroll this year. However, you wonder how high the bidding will get and how much they will be willing to pay for a player projected to be the next Japanese sensation in North America.
NB - All statistics up to and including August 24.