While the Shohei Ohtani Sweepstakes will be a highly anticipated story, another Japanese baseball player will ablaze the 2024 Major League Baseball free agency. Teams have been notified that Yoshinobu Yamamoto is officially a free agent, opening his 45-day posting window.

This development means that MLB squads interested in acquiring his services can start negotiating with his camp on November 21 at 8 a.m. Eastern Time. The team that gets him must submit signing terms to the league office no later than January 4, 2024, at 5 p.m. ET.

Yamamoto has dominated Nippon Professional Baseball since he debuted for the Orix Buffaloes in August 2017. He has been a five-time NPB All-Star in the last six seasons and was the 2021 Interleague Play Most Valuable Player.

However, he separated himself from the pack in 2021 when he won every possible individual award. Aside from being the Pacific League Most MVP, he also won the Eiji Sawamura Award as the league’s best starting pitcher. Yamamoto also earned the Golden Glove and Best Nine Award the same year. The 25-year-old pitcher was also the Pacific League ERA champion that year.

The pride of Bizen, Okayama, received the same awards in 2022. More importantly, he helped the Buffaloes win the 2022 Japan Series over the Tokyo Yakult Swallows. Yamamoto has also pitched two no-hitters, one in June 2022 and the other in September 2023.

The right-handed pitcher has a 75-30 record in seven seasons with Orix. He has a 1.72 earned run average and struck out 986 batters. Yamamoto surrendered only 216 walks and 36 home runs during his NPB stint.

Aside from the Buffaloes, he has also played for Japan in international competitions. His pitching prowess helped the Japanese win gold in the 2020 Summer Olympics, making him a member of that competition’s All-Olympic Baseball Team. He also teamed up with Ohtani to deliver a championship for Samurai Japan in the 2023 World Baseball Classic.

-Lance Fernandez