Yamamoto’s 45-day deadline starts with new details on his plan to pick a team

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Michael Bennington
Sunday November 26, 2023

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The countdown has commenced for Japanese pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto, as the Orix Buffaloes officially posted him, initiating a 45-day negotiation period. The Yankees are poised to enter the bidding fray, as their cross-town rivals the Mets are also gearing up for a competitive pursuit.

Yamamoto, the highly sought-after Nippon Professional Baseball pitcher, is set to engage with potential suitors through phone or Zoom meetings in the coming week. As per reliable league sources, Yamamoto is set to narrow down his options following the initial virtual meetings. Subsequently, he plans to return to the United States for face-to-face discussions with the finalists after the conclusion of MLB’s Winter Meetings scheduled from December 4-7 in Nashville.

While he has until January 4 to finalize a deal, the process is anticipated to move swiftly without utilizing the full 45-day period.

Yankees remain a strong contender to sign Yamamoto

Is Yamamoto the next Japanese pitching sensation destined for the Yankees, following in the footsteps of Masahiro Tanaka? Or could the Mets, who found success with Japanese right-hander Kodai Senga last season, be an equally appealing destination?

In the context of playing in New York, the advantage between the teams may not be stark, even though the Yankees attract more attention. Ultimately, Yamamoto’s decision to play in the city could hinge on the financial offerings of each team. Considering this, let’s explore how the New York teams are positioned leading up to Yamamoto’s signing deadline on January 4.

There was a momentary deviation in the Yamamoto sweepstakes on Wednesday, with widespread reports incorrectly suggesting that the pitcher prefers a team with an existing Japanese player. In clarification, Yamamoto’s agent, Joel Wolfe, conveyed that his client is open to playing alongside another NPB export, contrary to the earlier misinterpretation. A translation issue during a call with Japanese reporters contributed to the misinformation, as Wolfe did not imply a preference or requirement for a team with a Japanese player. Requests for further comment from Wolfe remain unanswered.

As mentioned earlier, individuals with insights into Yamamoto’s thinking have conveyed his interest in the prospect of joining the Yankees, although he remains open to various destinations. Notably, he shares a close relationship with Boston outfielder Masataka Yoshida and San Diego pitcher Yu Darvish.

What makes Yankees a suitable match

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Yamamoto, alongside Gerrit Cole and other talented pitchers, could seamlessly integrate into the middle or back of the Yankees’ rotation. This placement would afford him the opportunity to acclimate to the five-day pitching cycle with less immediate pressure to perform as an ace. The Yankees employed a similar strategy with Tanaka in his inaugural MLB season, designating him as the No. 4 starter during spring training.

The Yankees boast a noteworthy history of Japanese players thriving in the Bronx, with success stories like Tanaka and Hideki Matsui. This legacy could be a compelling factor for Yamamoto to consider.

The stakes are high

The 25-year-old Yamamoto boasts an impressive list of achievements. He has secured the league’s ERA title three times, achieved two no-hitters, clinched three consecutive Eiji Sawamura Awards—Japan’s equivalent of the Cy Young Award—and received the last two Pacific League Most Valuable Player Awards.

In the previous season, he compiled a notable record of 16-6 with a remarkable 1.21 ERA in 23 starts, allowing only two home runs throughout the entire season. Despite his stature (5-10, 175), talent evaluators view Yamamoto as an ace with a mid-to-high-90s fastball and a repertoire of skillfully executed breaking pitches.

While concerns may arise about his size, his youth and exceptional pitching abilities compensate for it. Yamamoto could potentially secure a contract exceeding $200 million.

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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