Major League Baseball said Monday its 30 clubs will have up to 45 days from Tuesday to negotiate a contract with Japanese starting pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto.
The signing deadline for the 25-year-old right-hander, who was posted by the Orix Buffaloes after a dominant career in Japan, has been set at 5 p.m. EST on Jan. 4.
Yamamoto is considered the second-best free agent available this offseason by baseball analysts, only behind two-time unanimous MVP Shohei Ohtani, who won 10 games as a pitcher and hit 44 home runs for the Los Angeles Angels this year.
Teams such as the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees are expected to pursue Yamamoto.
Jim Bowden of the Athletic, a subscription sports website, projects a seven-year, $211 million contract for Yamamoto, surpassing the seven-year, $155 million deal Masahiro Tanaka received from the Yankees, the largest so far for a Japanese player ahead of his major league debut.
Yamamoto had a 16-6 record with a 1.21 ERA in 23 games this year, extending his Nippon Professional Baseball record of leading a league in wins, ERA, strikeouts and winning percentage to three seasons.
The member of the 2023 World Baseball Classic-winning team also threw a no-hitter once in June 2022 and again in September 2023.