Yoshinobu Yamamoto was signed by the Orix Buffaloes on Monday, meaning the Japanese starting pitcher has just under 45 days to reach a contract with an MLB team. Future MLB starting pitcher widely considered second best free agent available in MLB this winter, behind star two-way player Shohei Ohtani.
Yamamoto’s potential landing spots have yet to crystallize with much predictive confidence, as the star pitcher has yet to formally meet with MLB clubs.
However, looking at what we know so far, we can assume a few likely landing spots. Yamamoto may not have carte blanche to control his own destiny, but it’s reasonable to expect that most MLB teams would be willing to sign him to a competitive contract.
Yamamoto is believed to prefer a large market first and foremost, and secondly, wants to play on a team that has another Japanese player, according to recent reports. He has no particular preference for the West Coast, unlike Ohtani when he was posted six years ago.
These two clues help us identify a few possibilities, keeping only these wish list items in mind. are not the end all be all for the recently released launcher. Some believe the preference for a Japanese teammate is less of a preference and more of something he would simply settle for.
Clue #2 — his desire to play with another Japanese player — would be interesting because culturally, some Japanese players preferred to play on teams without other Japanese players (subscription required), as Ken Rosenthal pointed out some time ago, due to the existence of hierarchies in Japanese culture.
Yamamoto was previously thought to not care about cultural hierarchy (subscription required), but we have now learned that he is not only indifferent on the subject, he can prefer play with another Japanese player.
So which teams check both boxes?