It's been an awfully long time — since Aug. 26, 1991, to be precise — since Bret Saberhagen became the fourth, and last, KC Royals pitcher to spin a no-hitter. Others have come tantalizingly close to throwing the club's fifth, but it just hasn't happened.
According to cbssports.com and sny.tv, however, a pitcher treated club personnel to a no-no over the weekend in Japan — both outlets report the Royals had a staff presence Saturday when Orix righthander Yoshinobu Yamamoto no-hit the Chiba Lotte Marines in Nippon Professional League play.
The gem gave Yamamoto, 25, a 15-5 record for the season; more importantly, perhaps, is that the shutout lowered his ERA to 1.20, a dazzling number that plays anywhere in the world.
Why, though, did the Royals apparently send someone so far to see Yamamoto?
Simple. Not only is he good, but it's been reported that the Buffaloes may well "post" him this winter, meaning he can sign with and pitch for any American major league club. And considering the Royals have one of the worst pitching staffs in the big leagues, Kansas City scouting him makes sense.
But whether the Royals pursue Yamamoto seriously is another matter.
How strongly might the KC Royals go after Yoshinobu Yamamoto?
This is the real, and hard, question for Kansas City principal owner John Sherman and general manager J.J. Picollo. Dreaming about landing Yamamoto, who is 68-28, 1.74 with a 2.0 BB9 in seven NPB seasons is one thing; signing him is quite another. Making Yamamoto a Royal will require Sherman's signature on some huge checks.
The biggest will be payable to Yamamoto, and he won't come cheap. For starters, think payments over time exceeding no less than $100 million (and probably more) to secure his services. The closest Kansas City has ever come to such an amount is the $82 million contract ($95.5 million if the club exercises its option for 2026) Salvador Perez currently works under.
Then there's the fee the Royals must pay the Buffaloes as compensation for signing their star. Handing Yamamoto even a $100 million deal will cost the Royals a lot — at least an additional $16.875 million (not counting potential bonuses and escalators) applying the required formula.
Because spending that kind of money isn't something this franchise isn't accustomed to, bringing Yamamoto to Kansas City as a valuable part of its pitching corps won't happen without a significant shift in front office mindset. The Royals must improve their pitching but, if past is prologue, they'll probably try to do so without paying the huge sums Yamamoto will command. And when the bidding starts, they probably won't hang in very long, not with the Dodgers, Yankees, Mets, and other deeper-pocket clubs in the fray.
But one never knows. Stay tuned.