What’s Next in MLB Free Agency After Yoshinobu Yamamoto Deal?

The next big domino has fallen, with Yoshinobu Yamamoto set to join Shohei Ohtani with the Dodgers. Now what comes next in MLB free agency?

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 19: Blake Snell #4 of the San Diego Padres looks o during the sixth inning of a game against the Colorado Rockies at PETCO Park on September 19, 2023 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

By: Kevin Henry

After Yoshinobu Yamamoto reportedly landed with the Los Angeles Dodgers in a mega-deal late on Thursday night, you can officially cue the Heath Ledger-Joker “And here we go” GIF.

Yes, the hot stove is about to ignite in a big way now that Yamamoto has reportedly agreed to a 12-year, $325 million deal with the Dodgers. The teams that were chasing Yamamoto, such as the New York Yankees, New York Mets and San Francisco Giants, will now turn their attention to making big splashes with other free agents … and that attention may turn very quickly.

The Yamamoto effect

A race is now likely underway for the teams above and others to sign pitchers such as reigning National League Cy Young winner Blake Snell, 2023 postseason hero Jordan Montgomery, Japanese starter Shota Imanaga, and elite-closer-in-waiting Josh Hader.

Ad – content continues below

That race will also benefit pitchers such as Marcus Stroman and Lucas Giolito, veteran arms who are part of a second tier of pitchers who come without the big price tags and will be coveted as well. With the top of the market set by Yamamoto, teams and desired pitchers can now begin to finalize what the rest of the winter’s deals will look like.

Teams who were hoping to win the Yamamoto sweepstakes already had their Plan Bs and Cs in place just in case. Now those plans are in full swing and it’s very likely to be a busy free agency period before the New Year begins.

More than a month has passed since Aaron Nola signed his seven-year, $172 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, so the balance between the contracts of Nola and Yamamoto will be weighed by those teams looking to make a deal.

Who is most desperate now?

Count the Yankees and Giants along with the Boston Red Sox among the teams perhaps most desperate to land one of the big name pitchers.

While San Francisco inked Jung Hoo Lee to solve their center field issues, the Giants, after being burned by Aaron Judge and Carlos Correa in previous offseasons, seem to still want to let the MLB world know they can play in the free agency game and win.

Also, don’t forget about teams like the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays.

Ad – content continues below

While the pair of American League East powers weren’t in the forefront of the Yamamoto bidding wars, they both still need to add to their rosters. Will that come through a bidding war for free agents or perhaps a deal with the Chicago White Sox for Dylan Cease or the Milwaukee Brewers for Corbin Burnes?

More than just pitching

Of course, this offseason isn’t just about who can shine on the mound. There are still position player prizes out there as well, including former National League MVP Cody Bellinger and slugging third baseman Matt Chapman. Even a veteran designated hitter such as J.D. Martinez can help many teams.

The Yamamoto deal not only lets pitchers know their market value, but also has an impact on all players. A free agent market that was described to me as “constipated” by one National League general manager at the recent MLB Winter Meetings is about to free up on several levels.

Who could be the next big name signed?

Don’t be surprised if it isn’t Montgomery. He will likely come with a lower price tag than Snell, with rumors saying he is using the contract signed by Carlos Rodon with the New York Yankees last season (six years, $162 million) as a baseline for his own deal. For some teams, that will be more manageable than Snell’s reported asking price that tops $200 million.

Be it Montgomery or Snell or any other pitcher, no one will be getting what Yamamoto brought in from the Dodgers, meaning that the market may be closer to Nola money than Yamamoto money moving forward.

With that in mind, the next deal may in fact help reset the market even more than Yamamoto did.

Ad – content continues below