Yamamoto’s free agency sparks frenzy: Yankees and Mets lead the pack in pursuit

The Olympic gold medalist pitcher of Tokyo 2020, Yoshinobu Yamamoto is on the Yankees radar.

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The anticipated free agency posting of Japanese right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto is imminent, with sources indicating that it could occur as early as Monday. The New York Yankees and New York Mets are reportedly among the numerous Major League Baseball (MLB) teams actively pursuing the services of the two-time Pacific League MVP, adding to the competitive landscape for this highly sought-after talent.

Yamamoto’s hot stove

Yamamoto, a 25-year-old three-time pitching Triple Crown winner, has garnered interest from virtually every big-market MLB team, including the Red Sox, Cardinals, Braves, Phillies, Dodgers, Astros, and potentially the Cubs. The pitcher is widely regarded as a top-tier talent, particularly as teams prioritize acquiring a No. 1 starter. Despite uncertainties regarding the Yankees and Mets pursuing other premier free-agent pitchers, Yamamoto’s age has attracted additional suitors, with unexpected contenders such as the Diamondbacks and Tigers entering the fray.

Rumors circulating about Yamamoto’s potential preference for a West Coast team have been downplayed by Yankees and Mets insiders. The majority of teams vying for the right-hander, who boasts an impressive career 1.82 ERA, are situated in the East and Central divisions.

While the Yankees, like other major-market teams, have explored the possibility of securing two-way star Shohei Ohtani, there is skepticism about Ohtani’s willingness to join the team. Allegedly, Ohtani expressed reservations about playing in a large city like New York during a visit six years ago. Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo, has maintained a discreet approach to negotiations, making it challenging to predict the outcome of Ohtani’s potential $500 million-plus deal.

Mets pitcher Kodai Senga, who had an outstanding rookie season, has publicly expressed his desire for Yamamoto to join the team’s rotation. The Yankees, too, have shown keen interest in Yamamoto, drawing comparisons to the successful tenure of Masahiro Tanaka. Despite lacking a singular overpowering pitch, Yamamoto’s impressive attributes, including a 97 mph fastball, poise, competitiveness, and athleticism, make him an appealing prospect. Speculation suggests that teams may be willing to invest $200 million or more to secure Yamamoto’s talents.

Concerns arose when Yankees general manager Brian Cashman made comments about Giancarlo Stanton’s injury history, prompting a response from Joel Wolfe, Yamamoto’s agent. Wolfe emphasized the resilience required to play in New York and cautioned free agents, both foreign and domestic, about the mental and physical toughness needed to thrive in the demanding environment. Cashman later clarified his remarks, expressing positivity about Stanton’s situation.

The Mets, with a long-standing interest in Yamamoto, remain actively engaged in the pursuit. Even if their commitment isn’t fully realized until 2025, the team aims to be competitive, viewing Yamamoto as a promising long-term investment. His impressive record with Orix, boasting a 17-6 record and a 1.16 ERA, coupled with a second consecutive no-hitter, further enhances his appeal. Mets president David Stearns, Yamamoto’s agent Joel Wolfe, and Yankees general manager Brian Cashman have chosen to remain tight-lipped amid the escalating speculation surrounding this sought-after Japanese talent.

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