Dodgers' pursuit of Japanese stars isn’t even close to done as new report surfaces

World Baseball Classic Semifinals: Mexico v Japan
World Baseball Classic Semifinals: Mexico v Japan / Eric Espada/GettyImages

With double-barreled signings of Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto this offseason, the Dodgers are establishing themselves as a destination for the best talent Japan's NPB has to offer. The Dodgers have had a history of engaging with Japanese free agents (they were the first big-league landing spot of Hideo Nomo, the first Japanese player to come to MLB in 29 years) but now it seems that their attentions are turning even more toward Japan than ever before.

After a thrilling World Baseball Classic championship, a few players on Team Japan already had major league contracts or were established in MLB — Ohtani, Yu Darvish, Masataka Yoshida — and a few more captured American attention like never before — Yoshinobu Yamamoto, power hitter Munetaka Murakami, and especially ace Roki Sasaki. A strong narrative formed around Sasaki's dominance in NPB and potential landing time in MLB after the WBC, even with Sasaki being 21 at the time.

The Dodgers locking down Ohtani and Yamamoto quickly moved the attention of the masses again to Sasaki, who is still three years away from being eligible for a posting that won't shackle him with an "amateur" label and see him grossly underpaid in MLB. It was logical to suppose that the Dodgers would also pursue Sasaki, but now there's reported evidence to show that they will.

The Daily Gendai reported that the Dodgers have been scouting Sasaki for years and are heavily interested in securing him after he's posted.

Dodgers pursuit of Japanese stars isn’t even close to done as new report surfaces

According to the report, the Dodgers have been closely tracking Sasaki's progress since he was in high school, sending their director of Asia scouting Jon Deeble to multiple games to take meticulous notes on Sasaki's pitching. The report also points to some interesting and heartening clues into Yamamoto's thinking in signing with the Dodgers — we knew that he wanted to sign with a team with other Japanese players, and quotes from Darvish seem to confirm that. If Sasaki is of the same mind, there's nowhere better he could go than Los Angeles.

Sasaki's team, the Chiba Lotte Marines, will most likely hold him for another three years until he can receive a multimillion dollar MLB contract and the Marines can collect the posting fee accordingly, but the Dodgers are way ahead of the curve. Yamamoto-to-MLB hype really began when Brian Cashman and the Yankees expressed interest in September 2023, but the Dodgers still won out. If they've already established a relationship with Sasaki dating back years, he could be a lock as things progress.