Yoshinobu Yamamoto: Dodgers choice not just about Shohei Ohtani

League: MLB

Posted on: 28 Dec, 2023 at 02:46 AM

Credit: Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

Having Shohei Ohtani as a teammate was merely a bonus and not the primary factor for Yoshinobu Yamamoto when he chose the Los Angeles Dodgers as his new team.

The team officially announced Yamamoto's 12-year contract on Wednesday. The right-handed pitcher reportedly will make $325 million over the life of the deal.

The acquisition of Yamamoto, 25, adds to the offseason haul for the defending National League West Division champs. Yamamoto, a three-time MVP of the Nippon Pacific League, joins Ohtani, a former Los Angeles Angels star and two-time American League MVP.

"I wouldn't say (Ohtani) was the sole reason I decided to come here," Yamamoto said via an interpreter at his introductory press conference. "Even if he went somewhere else, I probably still would have ended up in L.A. as a Dodger. On top of that, Shohei is obviously not only one of the best Japanese players, but he's one of the best players, period, in all of MLB. To be able to play with him from here on out means a lot to me."

In seven Nippon Professional Baseball League seasons pitching for the Orix Buffaloes, Yamamoto compiled a 70-29 record with one save and a 1.82 ERA in 172 games. He struck out 922 batters over 897 innings.

Yamamoto was excellent in 2023, producing a 16-6 record over 23 games, striking out 169 batters in 164 innings, and posting a 1.21 ERA. He led the league in wins, strikeouts and ERA.

The Dodgers, who fell to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL Division Series, are the current betting favorites to win the 2024 World Series.

"It has been an exciting couple of weeks for the Dodgers community and being able to add a starting pitcher as decorated and talented as Yamamoto is a great way to wrap up 2023 and to add to what we expect to be a thrilling 2024 season," Los Angeles general manager Brandon Gomes said, according to MLB.com.

Yamamoto also won the Japanese pitching triple crown (ERA, wins and strikeouts) in 2021 and 2022 and helped Japan to a gold medal in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with a 1.59 ERA and 18 strikeouts in two games. He teamed with Ohtani this year to bring Japan its third World Baseball Classic title.

"To be able to play with him from here on out definitely means a lot," Yamamoto said.

Only three pitchers in Major League Baseball have won the pitching Triple Crown three times -- Sandy Koufax, Walter Johnson and Grover Cleveland Alexander.

Yamamoto also has won the Eiji Sawamura Award, which equals the Cy Young Award, three times.

Los Angeles president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said in a statement, "We could not be more excited to bring Yoshinobu Yamamoto to the Dodgers. You don't win three MVP awards by the age of 25 without an exceptional combination of talent, work ethic and mental toughness. He's an elite pitcher with an impressive dedication to his craft who will only become more dynamic in a Dodger uniform."

--Field Level Media