Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was very forthcoming on Tuesday, announcing that the team met with free agent Shohei Ohtani in person. He also let it be known that he hadn’t met with free agent pitching sensation Yoshinobu Yamamoto.
Roberts said he’s hopeful to sit down with the free-agent pitcher, which could make sense given Yamamoto’s timeline.
Yamamoto was posted by the Orix Buffaloes on Nov. 20, which kicked off a 45-day countdown until his Jan. 4 deadline to sign with an MLB team. Andy Martino of SNY previously reported that Yamamoto was expected to meet with finalists during the Winter Meetings.
The Dodgers are reported to have major interest in Yamamoto. Their starting rotation struggled in 2023 and will be missing several stalwarts next year. Clayton Kershaw and Julio Urías are poised to enter 2024 as unsigned free agents. Right-handers Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin will spend most (if not all) of next season recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Given these losses, Yamamoto could become the face of the Dodgers’ starting rotation immediately. Scouts have reportedly heralded him as the best pitcher to come out of Japan – this season, if not ever – and the few teams that can afford Yamamoto’s services are lining up to greet him.
While some suitors already have a clear number-1 starter, the 25-year-old Yamamoto would give the Dodgers the ace-level pitcher they currently lack. Their pursuit of Ohtani could be holding up a potential meeting, however, as the Dodgers met him in person over the weekend at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers have already re-signed outfielder Jason Hayward and are reportedly close to bringing back pitcher Joe Kelly. Once Ohtani has settled on his next team, the Dodgers’ front office figures to pivot to addressing their rotation needs. That might include a meeting with Yamamoto in the near future.
Photo Credit: Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports
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