Japanese right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto is expected to be posted for free agency very soon, perhaps as early as Monday, and the Yankees and Mets are said among many teams in hot pursuit of the two-time Pacific League MVP.
Every big-market MLB team is believed to be showing interest in Yamamoto, which isn’t a major surprise since he’s a three-time pitching Triple Crown winner and still only 25.
The Red Sox, Cards, Braves, Phillies, Dodgers, Astros and possibly Cubs are among teams prioritizing a No. 1 starter, and Yamamoto is considered in that category.
While it’s unclear if the Yankees and Mets are strongly pursuing other top free-agent pitchers to this point, Yamamoto’s age is drawing additional teams, including some surprise entrants like the Diamondbacks and Tigers.
Yankees and Mets people suggest they lend no credence to rumors Yamamoto may have a preference for the West Coast, and the vast majority of teams known to be in on the pitcher with a career 1.82 ERA are in the East and Central divisions.
At least the Yankees (and presumably all other big-market teams, including the Mets) are also known to have checked in on the two-way megastar Shohei Ohtani. But in that case, the Yankees aren’t as optimistic Ohtani will seriously consider New York based on a comment he’s said to have made to them six years ago while on his tour of teams suggesting he didn’t see himself in such a big city as New York.
Five of Ohtani’s seven finalist teams were on the West Coast last time, including the winning Angels, but Ohtani’s agent Nez Balelo has kept things extremely quiet regarding the international sensation who may garner $500 million, or more, on a record deal this time.
Mets ace Kodai Senga, who put together a brilliant rookie campaign in Queens, has said he’ll make a pitch for his friend Yamamoto to join him in a rotation that needs multiple reinforcements.
The Yankees are also said extremely interested in the pitcher who has a career 1.82 ERA and has been compared favorably to Masahiro Tanaka, a Yankees success story who signed for $175 million over seven years — although much of their focus should be on offense (with free agent Cody Bellinger and trade-option Juan Soto among targets).
While Yamamoto doesn’t have the once overwhelming knockout pitch like Senga’s ghost fork, Yamamoto throws almost as hard (97) and is given extremely high marks for poise, competitiveness and athleticism. That — and his tender age — are why some see a team spending $200 million-plus to bring in Yamamoto.
While Yamamoto’s agent Joel Wolfe, who also represents Yankees outfielder/DH Giancarlo Stanton, responded strongly to Brian Cashman’s comment at the GM meetings that injuries “seem to be part of (Stanton’s) game,” it’s hard to imagine one offhand comment will be a major factor in Yamamoto’s ultimate decision.
Wolfe did tell The Athletic, “It’s a good reminder for all free agents considering signing in New York, both foreign and domestic, that to play for that team you’ve got to be made of Teflon, both mentally and physically, because you can never let your guard down, even in the offseason.”
Cashman said later that he reached out to Wolfe and Stanton to explain, and later issued very positive comments about Stanton, declaring, “I feel like everything’s in a good spot.”
The Mets have long been linked to Yamamoto and are said to remain involved. Even if the Mets aren’t necessarily all in until 2025, they are aiming to be competitive, and Yamamoto looks like a good long-range bet due to his tender age and the trajectory of his career. He was 17-6 with a 1.16 ERA for Orix this season, and threw a no-hitter for the second straight season.
Mets baseball president David Stearns declined comment, as did the agent Wolfe. Cashman didn’t return a text.