Like with any MLB mega-deal, Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s $325 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers is apparently a lot more complicated under the surface.
The three-time Japanese Pacific League MVP and triple crown winner inked the record 12-year contract with the Dodgers last week, the team’s second bombshell after the Shohei Ohtani signing.
Unlike Ohtani’s deal, Yamamoto’s deal does not carry heavy deferrals. What it does contain, however, are a pair of opt-outs whose timing depends entirely on whether or not Yamamoto’s elbow stays intact over the next half-decade, according to the Associated Press.
If Yamamoto undergoes the UCL reconstruction known as Tommy John surgery or spends 134 consecutive days on the injured list with a right elbow injury between now and 2029, he will reportedly be able to opt out of his contract after the 2031 and 2033 World Series. If that elbow stays healthy, those options change to 2029 and 2031.
In the former case, the Dodgers would also reportedly gain a $10 million contract option for the 2036 season with no buyout.
The logic of those conditions is pretty simple. If the Dodgers lose Yamamoto to a year-plus of Tommy John surgery or some other procedure, they are assured of keeping him another two years. Given that Yamamoto is only 25 years old and will be 31 years old after the 2029 World Series, that opt out isn’t nothing, even if he gets hurt.
Per the AP’s numbers, Yamamoto’s contract guarantees him $170 million over six seasons following 2029. Blake Snell is 31 years old right now and is one of the top free agents on the market despite having never thrown more than 180 2/3 innings in a season. Tyler Glasnow is 30 and just got $135 million despite never topping 120 innings. As long as Yamamoto is an effective pitcher when healthy, he could get a lot more than $170 million if he tastes the free market again in 2029. Which is why the Dodgers will want to prevent that if they don’t get their money’s worth.
You also really can’t blame the Dodgers for insuring themselves against Tommy John surgery given that they currently have three different presenters of their rotation — Walker Buehler, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin — currently recovering from the dreaded procedure.
Other Yoshinobu Yamamoto Dodgers contract perks
In addition to his variably timed opt-outs, Yamamoto’s contract reportedly contains the following perks:
the ability to opt out at the end of any season in which he is traded
a $50 million signing bonus, all paid by July 1
hotel suite on road trips
five roundtrip airline tickets each year
The Orix Buffaloes, Yamamoto’s team in Japan, will also receive a $50.6 million posting fee from the Dodgers, increasing the right-hander’s total cost to over $375 million.
The Dodgers introduced Yamamoto last week, the latest chapter in the most expensive offseason in MLB history. They still might have more work to do, as the team’s roster would likely benefit from an established bat in left field and yet another starting pitcher.