From Steinbrenner to Sunset Strip: Why did Yamamoto skip the Yankees for L.A.?

Esteban Quiñones
Tuesday December 26, 2023

Table of Contents

In one of the most uneventful and sorrowful chapters of the New York Yankees‘ offseason, the narrative unfolds with the Yoshinobu Yamamoto saga, ultimately culminating in his surprising move to the Los Angeles Dodgers. This unexpected turn of events prompts a deeper exploration into why the Yankees, known for their prowess in acquiring marquee players, faced such a setback.

Why did Yamamoto skip the Bronx for L.A.?

Yoshinobu Yamamoto is a key target for the New York Yankees during the 2023 offseason.

In the heyday of the Bronx Bombers, led by the indomitable George Steinbrenner, the Yankees seldom failed in their pursuit of the “Big Fish” during free agency. Steinbrenner’s relentless pursuit of any player who could bolster the Yankees’ chances of victory became a trademark of the team’s identity. However, in the contemporary landscape of baseball, this narrative appears to have lost its sheen, and the Yoshinobu Yamamoto free agency episode epitomizes this shift.

A careful examination of the offers extended by the Yankees and the Dodgers sheds light on the perplexing choice made by Yamamoto. Despite the Yankees presenting a higher average annual value, an earlier opt-out, and more substantial earnings in the initial five years, Yamamoto opted for the Dodgers. Ken Rosenthal, reporting for The Athletic, dissected the sequence of events leading to Yamamoto’s rejection of the Yankees’ offer in favor of donning Dodger blue.

While the total contract value from the Yankees fell slightly short of the Dodgers’ staggering $325 million, Yamamoto would have enjoyed a higher annual income had he chosen the Bronx. Rosenthal also emphasized the accelerated opt-out clause in the Yankees’ proposal. The question then arises: What transpired to sway the scales in favor of the Dodgers?

Speculation arises, offering various conjectures to explain Yamamoto’s decision. Perhaps a desire to play alongside Shohei Ohtani, a former teammate from the Japan team that triumphed in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, influenced Yamamoto. The thriving Japanese community in the Los Angeles area and the convenience of direct flights between L.A. and Tokyo could have been contributing factors.

Moreover, the allure of New York, with its intense media scrutiny, might have been a daunting prospect for Yamamoto. Conversely, rumors circulated that Yamamoto harbored childhood affinity for the Dodgers, possibly inspired by Hideo Nomo, a former L.A. pitcher who blazed a trail for Japanese pitchers in MLB.

Yet, beyond these personal considerations, a broader narrative unfolds. The history of the New York Yankees, with 40 World Series appearances and 27 titles, remains unparalleled. The Yankees’ brand, synonymous with baseball greatness, persists undiminished. However, the rise of the Los Angeles Dodgers as a formidable franchise over the past decade cannot be ignored. While not matching the Yankees in brand recognition, the Dodgers have become a potent force within the baseball industry.

In the grand scheme, Yamamoto’s decision appears to align with the zeitgeist favoring the Dodgers. The allure of playing for a successful franchise with a surging brand, coupled with personal factors, made the Dodgers an irresistible choice for Yamamoto.

The Yamamoto saga serves as a microcosm of the evolving dynamics within baseball. The Yankees’ storied legacy endures, but the Dodgers’ ascendance adds a new layer to the narrative. As fans ponder the implications of this unexpected move, one thing remains certain: the landscape of baseball is in constant flux, with players making choices that reshape the league’s competitive landscape.

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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One thought on “From Steinbrenner to Sunset Strip: Why did Yamamoto skip the Yankees for L.A.?

  1. Ohtani & Yamamoto conduct during free agency was very devious, and it went Way Beyond just getting the most money possible.

    Shanti NEVER had any intention of possibly signing with the Blue Jays, and he willfully misled & played both the teams & their fans, as described later.

    And Yamamoto NEVER had any intention of even considering signing with either the Yankees or Mets for the following 3 reasons:

    1) The Yankees actually offered Yamamoto a MUCH HIGHER annual asset value in their offer, which was $300 million over 10 years, for an AAV of $30MM/year. While the Dodger offer, which he accepted, was for 12 years at $325, for an AAV of $27.08 million, almost $3MM LESS than the Yankees offer—and much of that money was Backloaded.

    2) Unlike the Dodgers offer, the Yankees offer contained 2 opt-outs, and the first one could be exercised at age 29. The Dodgers’ 2 opt-out clauses wouldn’t occur until AFTER he was 30, which is much less desirable for a free-agent pitcher.

    Moreover, much of Yamamoto contract is Backloaded – unlike the Yankees offer – so if Yamamoto opts out of the Dodgers deal, he’ll lose MILLIONS of guaranteed dollars, and the Dodgers will have gotten him at bargain prices.

    Moreover, free-agent pitchers who are 29 or less, receive Far More Money in free agency then pitchers over 30, so the Yankees’ offer was Far Superior to the Dodgers offer—yet he took the less desirable offer!

    3) The Mets offered him $325MM guaranteed BEFORE the Dodgers matched that offer. And Yamamoto NEVER gave the Mets the opportunity to make a counter offer!

    That’s BS! How obvious does that make it that he was just using Cohen & the Mets? Yamamoto should have just held a press conference with the NY press & said: “F Cohen, F the Mets, and F their fans! And ditto for Hal, the Yankees & their fans!”

    I don’t begrudge any player playing wherever he prefers, but to BLATANTLY LIE to both the Mets & Yankees about his interest in them was Despicable! And that’s without mentioning how he played on the hopes of Yankee & Met fans, which is also Despicable.

    Ohtani did the same thing to the Toronto Blue Jays & their fans. He went as far as going to their spring training facilities to ostensibly confirm that their facilities were up to his expectations. The Blue Jays & their fans took that as a sign that he was serious about signing with them, when Ohtani knew all along that he had No Intention of signing with anyone other than the Dodgers.

    Both Ohtani & Yamamoto have proven themselves to be Liars Without Any Principles or Ethics.

    I hope the Mets & Yankees keep their duplicity in mind the next time they interact with a Japanese star player. If Ohtani & Yamamoto are any indication of the sort of integrity exhibited by Japanese star players, then you have to wonder about the moral basis of those men.

    NOTE: Interestingly, their conduct may be a sign of an overall shift in the Japanese culture, which had been previously exceptional. But a major Toyota subsidiary automaker just admitted that it’s been falsifying safety-test results for 3 Decades! And I say that as someone who’s owned ONLY cars sold by Japanese companies for about 40 years. (I currently own a Mazda.)

    Given how duplicitous they both were in their dealings with other teams & how they willfully mislead those teams fans, I hope both Ohtani & Yamamoto have career-ending injuries that leave the Dodgers on the hook for almost $1 Billion. And I’ve NEVER felt that way about any free-agent who chose to play elsewhere, but their conduct was so Disgusting that they warrant my utter contempt for them.

    It would be hysterical to watch the Dodgers try to field a quality team if they were saddled with $1 Billion in useless debt.

    And it would be even funnier to see them try to sell the team to anyone for anything approaching market value when the prospective owner would know that they wouldn’t be able to field an MLB-quality team, given that debt & baseball’s tax system on teams exceeding the maximum tax level., i.e., The Cohen Tax. Wouldn’t it be hysterically ironic if The Cohen Tax, as it’s called, ended up destroying the Dodgers?

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