Anticipation over Yamamoto grows as Yankees turn to wait and watch

Yamamoto is a key target for the Yankees in the 2023 offseason.

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The Yankees have presented their proposal to Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and now they await to determine if it will be sufficient to secure the services of the premier free-agent pitcher in the market.

A Yankees delegation, featuring Hal Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman, Aaron Boone, and Matt Blake, spent Monday in Los Angeles engaging in discussions with Yamamoto and his representatives. This meeting is part of their comprehensive effort to attract the Japanese ace.

The Yamamoto sweepstakes involve several major market teams, including the Mets, Dodgers, and Giants, among others. The potential final cost could surpass $300 million, encompassing posting fees, which constitute a percentage of the overall contract value.

The deadline for teams to secure a deal with Yamamoto, the 25-year-old three-time recipient of Nippon Professional Baseball’s equivalent of the Cy Young award, is January 4. As per ESPN reports, the Giants engaged in discussions with Yamamoto during a meeting on Sunday. It remains uncertain whether the Mets intend to conduct further meetings with Yamamoto. Two weeks ago, Steve Cohen and David Stearns traveled to Japan for a sit-down with him and his family.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto
Toru Hanai/AP

The Dodgers have maintained their interest in Yamamoto, particularly in light of Shohei Ohtani‘s recently signed 10-year, $700 million contract, which incorporates $68 million in annual deferrals. This strategic structure reduces Ohtani’s average annual value for luxury-tax considerations to $46 million per year, as reported by Jon Heyman of The Post.

Yankees keep cards close to the chest on Yamamoto

Although Boone had previously encountered Yamamoto in an offseason meeting (as they coincidentally found themselves in the same location and were introduced, according to the manager’s statement last week), Monday marked the first in-person interaction for the remaining members of the Yankees group.

The Yankees’ fascination with the right-handed pitcher spans several years, originating from a scouting process that involved Cashman’s trip to Japan in September, where he witnessed Yamamoto’s impressive no-hitter.

Cashman mentioned at the recent winter meetings that extensive scouting had been conducted on the pitcher, indicating confidence in his potential success regardless of where he pitches globally. He noted the player’s free agency status and mentioned ongoing conversations, expressing the team’s commitment to making their best efforts in the pursuit of acquiring him.

Yankees Brian Cashman watches in person as Japanese pitching sensation Yoshinobu Yamamoto pitches a no hitter in Japan on Sept 09, 2023.

Cashman refrained from disclosing whether the Yankees intended to involve Hideki Matsui and Masahiro Tanaka in their efforts to recruit Yamamoto. However, it wouldn’t be unexpected if they did, given the successful careers both Matsui and Tanaka experienced in The Bronx.

Notably, Matsui shares the same representation agency as Yamamoto (Wasserman), and Tanaka has spent the last three seasons pitching in the same league as Yamamoto.

Cashman stated the intention to present their most appealing offers while recruiting free agents, using methods they deemed advantageous. While highlighting that negotiating contracts was typically a significant aspect, he emphasized the willingness to go beyond that, offering additional incentives or actions that could positively influence their image.

He concluded by stating their readiness to employ any strategy they believed would aid their cause and await the outcome of their efforts.

There is inherent uncertainty regarding how Japanese players will adapt to MLB, considering factors such as using a different ball, increased travel demands, potentially fewer days between starts, and facing elevated competition. Despite these variables, the Yankees appear to be confident that Yamamoto will excel in the U.S.

If acquired, Yamamoto is envisioned as a formidable No. 2 in the Yankees’ rotation, complementing Gerrit Cole. Notably, he would share the same age as the recently acquired superstar, Juan Soto.

Cashman expressed unwavering confidence in the player’s abilities. He noted the considerable interest from multiple parties vying to persuade him, highlighting the quality of talent the player possessed and acknowledging the talent pool in Japan. This information was supplemented by Jon Heyman’s reporting.

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