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Yoshinobu Yamamoto becomes the highest paid MLB pitcher in joining the Dodgers

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The LA Dodgers have been busy this offseason. Over the past few weeks, they have spent just over $1 billion beefing up their roster, and a big chunk of that is going to 25-year-old Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who just became the highest-paid pitcher in Major League Baseball. Mike DiGiovanna covers the MLB for the LA times, and he's with us now. Hi there.

MIKE DIGIOVANNA: Hey. How you doing, Ari?

SHAPIRO: I'm good. Who is Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and why were the Dodgers so keen to sign him?

DIGIOVANNA: Well, the Dodgers weren't the only team. You know, he had a good dozen teams pursuing him aggressively. I think when you combine his age - he's only 25. His track record already - he's won the MVP over in Japan for three straight years and the equivalent of their Cy Young Award for three straight years. And the fact that you don't have to give up any players in a trade to get a pitcher of this caliber, I think, is what made him most attractive.

SHAPIRO: And to put this into context, just a few weeks ago, the Dodgers inked the largest deal in baseball history with another Japanese player, Shohei Ohtani. What are your thoughts about how this is shaping up?

DIGIOVANNA: Well, the Ohtani deal was historic in its size, but I think also in its structure. He deferred 680 million of that $700 million deal until after the 10 years is up. And by doing that, he reduced the present-day value of that 700 million down to about 460 million. That lowered the luxury tax hit the Dodgers will take on their payroll and allowed them the resources to go out and get Yamamoto. So, they're - you know - allowed them...

SHAPIRO: It's a practical steal. They're getting a bargain.

DIGIOVANNA: And he's going to probably pay for himself with all the extra income the Dodgers are going to generate from marketing, advertising and sponsorship with Japanese companies.

SHAPIRO: I mean, I guess that's the question. Is it worth it at the end of the day - not only in the payoff commercially, but also in getting a World Series title? Like, is this a good deal that they're making?

DIGIOVANNA: I think it's a great deal. One - Shohei Ohtani, especially when he returns to pitching in 2025, is the best player in baseball. And I think, you know, as much of an impact as he will have on the field - he could generate $1 billion in extra revenue for the Dodgers, especially when you piggyback him with Yamamoto now. So he could actually pay for himself.

SHAPIRO: That is wild. Just broadly speaking, what do you think this says about the pipeline between the American and Japanese leagues in baseball?

DIGIOVANNA: I think it's always been pretty robust. Teams have always been willing to take a chance on pitchers that are a little more mystery. But I think now when you have, you know, all the technology, the pitch-tracking data that teams have in Japan - you can know the velocity, the shape, for these pitchers in Japan that you didn't have 20 years ago. So there's a little less mystery. I think the risk is a little lower, and I think these guys are really good.

SHAPIRO: Mike DiGiovanna covers the MLB for the Los Angeles Times. Thanks a lot.

DIGIOVANNA: Thank you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Jason Fuller
Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.