1. Yoshinobu Yamamoto
Yoshinobu Yamamoto has yet to throw a pitch in the MLB, yet he is undeniably one of the best free agents on the market this offseason. MLB.com has him ranked as their second-best free agent this season, behind only another Japanese superstar, Shohei Ohtani.
The 25-year-old right hander will leave Japan with quite the trophy case. Yamamoto is a five-time Nippon Professional Baseball (NBP) All-Star and has won the last three MVP Awards and the last three Eiji Sawamura Awards (best NPB starting pitcher). He has finished as a four-time league leader in both strikeouts and ERA, and just finished his third pitching Triple Crown season. Oh, and he's thrown two no-hitters already.
Across seven seasons in the NPB, Yamamoto has a cumulative record of 70-29, a 1.82 ERA, and 9.3 K/9.
On Friday, ESPN's Jeff Passan confirmed that Boston is one of the favorites to land Yamamoto. Passan also provided a ballpark of Yamamoto's timeline and contract. Executives believe that the floor for Yamamoto's contract will be $200 million, and could even exceed $250 million. With the addition of the $39.38 million posting fee that will have to paid to the Orix Buffaloes, Yamamoto's NPB team, Passan believes it is a very realistic possibility that he secures the second-largest contract ever for a pitcher. He will meet with teams following the Winter Meetings before he makes his free agency decision, but that doesn't make him any less of a dream addition for Red Sox fans.
Last offseason, Boston signed another former Orix Buffalo, Masataka Yoshida. Red Sox fans must hope that a fellow Japanese major league and former NPB teammate could help allure Yamamoto to Fenway Park.
The Red Sox are in dire need of top-of-the-rotation starting pitching and need a big money splash to rid themselves of a cheap ownership narrative, a narrative that has picked up steam over the last few years. It's a two birds, one stone, situation for Boston. Make it happen, Craig.
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