Second only to the hype surrounding Shohei Ohtani is the hype surrounding fellow countryman Yoshinobu Yamamoto. It's for good reason, too — Yamamoto is a three time pitching Triple Crown winner in NPB for the Orix Buffaloes, a WBC champion in 2023 for Samurai Japan, and he has a staggering 1.82 lifetime ERA with 922 strikeouts and has thrown two no-hitters. Eyes really started to turn to Yamamoto when Yankees GM Brian Cashman was spotted in attendance at his second no-hitter, immediately sparking rumors connecting him to New York.
Cashman and the Yankees aren't the only ones anymore. Yamamoto's arrival in MLB will almost certainly be accompanied by the largest initial contract given to a Japanese pitcher, surpassing Masahiro Tanaka's $155 million in 2014. With the Orioles, Yamamoto would join Grayson Rodriguez and Dean Kremer as part of Baltimore's young rotation with a lot of potential. However, with Rodriguez expected to make only a little over league minimum and Kremer expected to make around $2 million next year, there's very little chance the Orioles would be willing to cough up the $200 million or more it'll take to sign Yamamoto.
This year's free agent class is filled with expensive starting pitchers. There are even fewer high-profile position players on the market, and then even fewer elite bullpen arms. The only of note is Josh Hader who, despite a very shaky 2022 for the Brewers and Padres, picked it up again in 2023 and reaffirmed his reputation as one of the best closers in baseball. For the Orioles, who will be sitting their own elite closer through 2024, Hader would be a perfect short-term contract to get them through endgames the same way Felix Bautista could.
However, it's highly unlikely that Hader would sign a short-term contract with the knowledge that he was merely a stand-in — this is, without a hefty price tag, which the Orioles wouldn't be able to slap on anyway. In September, Baltimore retained Bautista at an absolute steal of a rate: two years, $2 million. Even though his missing all of the 2024 season won't put them out of much money, it's highly likely that they'll sooner adapt one of their other bullpen arms to the closer role before signing someone new to fill in, much less someone who will be asking for as much money as Hader.