If you're going to miss the 75th annual Old-Timers' Day at Yankee Stadium, you'd better have a good reason if you don't want to come off disrespectful.
Luckily, Yankees GM Brian Cashman had a solid excuse. Unbeknownst to the general public, Cashman had traveled to Japan to watch soon-to-be free agent ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto's Saturday start. The jig was officially up when he was spotted behind the plate in photos of Yamamoto's celebration ... because, oh yeah, the right-hander just happened to show off by completing a no-hitter.
It's always difficult to tell which pie-in-the-sky free agents the Yankees actually intend on pursuing, which invalidates so many offseason wishlists. Not every pursuit can be the Bryce Harper pursuit, where the Yankees brag about how disinterested they are.
But Yamamoto, who seemed likely to be a luxury too expensive for the modern Yankees to be all in on just a few days ago, has suddenly become a real possibility. Cashman was flanked by top lieutenant Omar Minaya on his trip to Japan, following in the footsteps of a wide variety of other Yankees scouts a few weeks back. Is this just excitement surrounding a player, or is this a "We Will Not be Denied" full-court press?
Will Yankees sign Yoshinobu Yamamoto, or is it just a pipe dream?
Yamamoto is certainly a Yankees target and a team priority, but expect this offseason to be extremely muddled with rumors until the dust actually settles.
A Yahoo! Sports Japan article has already dropped claiming the Yankees plan to "spend big" on Yamamoto, with an official reporting that their offer will be "significantly higher" than the contract they doled out to Masahiro Tanaka. Of course, it's all hearsay until the ink dries, and the Yankees' plans are often different from the Yankees' realities. Remember when they planned to outbid the world for Shohei Ohtani, only for Ohtani to eliminate them first?
All we know for sure is that Cashman arrived over the weekend to hammer home the Yankees' interest after sending all his disciples in previous weeks. When pressed to comment to the Japanese media after the no-no's completion, he refused.
But what did he really have to say? His presence alone was more than just a hint that the team's pursuit of Yamamoto was ratcheting up a notch. It was a big, blaring horn screaming, "We're not just doing this for leverage!"
If the Yankees want to raise their ceiling over the next few winters and get younger with experienced pieces, adding Yamamoto in 2024 and Munetaka Murakami in 2026 would be a pretty intriguing way to go about it.