While the baseball world awaits movement on Shohei Ohtani and Juan Soto, NPB ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto has emerged as the #3 name on the offseason market. The right-hander is the most popular starting pitcher in free agency and has been tied to virtually every big spender (and a few less traditional suitors).
Will Sammon of the Athletic reports that seven teams have stepped forward as the key players in the Yamamoto bidding. That group includes (listed alphabetically) the Blue Jays, Dodgers, Giants, Mets and Yankees. Two other “mystery teams” are also involved.
None of those teams come as a surprise. They’ve all previously been linked to Yamamoto, while a few have openly discussed him as a target. Mets owner Steve Cohen and president of baseball operations David Stearns recently flew to Japan to sit down with the 25-year-old righty. Yamamoto will make his own trip this weekend, when he’s scheduled to come to the U.S. to chat with interested teams.
At the beginning of the offseason, MLBTR predicted a nine-year, $225MM contract. It seems that could end up being light. In an appearance on Foul Territory yesterday, Ken Rosenthal noted there’s a general expectation that Yamamoto’s deal will land “considerably higher” than $200MM.
Yamamoto is coming off a third consecutive Sawamura award as Japan’s top pitcher. He turned in a 1.21 ERA over 164 innings while striking out 169 batters. Evaluators are nearly unanimous in projecting Yamamoto as at least a #2 caliber starter in the majors with a shot to be an ace. Between that dominance and nearly unprecedented youth for a free agent pitcher, he’s one of the most appealing in recent history.
That has made him a target for virtually all the big-market clubs. It stands to reason the Jays’ interest is contingent on Ohtani’s decision. (Toronto general manager Ross Atkins told reporters this week they didn’t plan to add two players from the top of the market.) The Giants and Dodgers are also believed to remain in the race for Ohtani, who could sign in the next few days. The Yankees are reportedly on the verge of acquiring Soto but still seem to be engaged on Yamamoto, while the Mets have made no secret of the fact that Yamamoto is their top offseason priority.