The Arizona Diamondbacks will likely explore the market for another starting pitcher. As of right now, the only guaranteed starters they currently have are Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly, and Brandon Pfaadt. While this is a promising trio, there’s very little depth behind it. However, according to Jon Heyman of the New York Post, the Diamondbacks may go after one of the best, if not the best, starting pitchers on the free agent market, Yoshinobu Yamamoto.
Yamamoto’s most recent season in Japan was flat-out dominant. In 171 innings, Yamamoto owned an ERA of just 1.16 with a 6.29 K:BB ratio and WHIP clocking in at 0.86. The right-hander struck out over a quarter of the batters he faced with a 26.7% K-rate and a walk rate of just 4.2%. Home runs were also a non-issue, as he allowed just two for a 0.11 HR/9 rate.
He has established himself as a superstar in the NPB. This now marks three seasons in a row where he has had an ERA under 2.00 and the fourth time in the last five seasons he’s accomplished that feat. His highest single-season ERA comes from his rookie year in 2017 at 2.35, and that was only in 57.1 innings when he was 18. ‘17 also marks the only year he had a WHIP of 1.00 or greater.
Yamamoto sits mid-90s with his fastball, but the way he can manipulate his fastball is impressive. According to FanGraphs’ report on Yamamoto, his fastball has sink, cut, and ride to it. But his best pitch is his splitter. His curveball is another plus offering to his arsenal. On top of all that, he is one of the best athletes on the mound, which has helped his command develop to an elite level. After all, he’s now posted a sub-6% BB% in three straight seasons.
Yamamoto, however, will not be cheap. MLB Trade Rumors predicts that Yamamoto will sign for nine years at $225 million ($25 million AAV). The Athletic also projects Yamamoto for a mega contract at $211 million over the course of seven seasons ($30.1 million AAV). If Yamamoto signs somewhere in this ballpark, it would become the largest contract ever given out by the D-Backs. The current record holder is Zack Greinke, who signed a six-year $206.5 million deal ($34.4 million AAV). However, on an annual basis, the D-Backs would be paying out less than what they gave Greinke.
Of course, the Diamondbacks won't be the only team pursuing Yamamoto. Nearly every team has shown interest in the right-hander. Heyman's report also includes the Detroit Tigers as another team that will likely pursue Yamamoto. Not only could it come down to money, but it could also come down to who gives him the best chance of winning, which the Diamondbacks definitley could offer.
If there was a better time than ever for the D-Backs to sign another mega contract to a pitcher, now would be it. Fresh off an NL Pennant, the Diamondbacks need to add some reinforcements to the roster. Yamamoto would not only be a massive reinforcement but also give the D-Backs a potential Rookie of the Year frontrunner and someone with the potential to be one of the best pitchers in MLB.