If Yoshinobu Yamamoto chooses the New York Mets when his free agency concludes, it'll either be because he had the most magical meal of his life at Steve Cohen's place over the weekend, or because Cohen lapped the Yankees' and Dodgers' offers by over a hundred million dollars.
Because based on recent reports about Yamamoto's urges, the Mets feel like the antithesis of what he seeks.
There's a reason the Yankees have been wink-winking and nudge-nudging all along in the Yamamoto chase, long before their second face-to-face meeting was requested by the pitcher over the weekend.
According to MLB Network's Jon Morosi on Tuesday, the Yankees are still accurately viewed as the front-runner in the chase, which should conclude by Christmas, or potentially by the end of this week. While the team has been burned before in similar cases -- think Shohei Ohtani in 2017 -- it turned out that, back then, New York had nothing Ohtani wanted other than money set aside. Ohtani wanted a West Coast home and a lower-key spot to establish his footing. The Yankees, instead, offered the game's grandest stage and highest pressure gauge. He turned them down immediately.
Yamamoto? As it turns out, he craves the spotlight and, as Morosi notes around the 2:14 mark of the video below, he's tired of pitching for the "smaller of two teams" in his market, which he just did in Japan. That describes the Mets to a tee, and could mean that Cohen will have to make the bidding unreasonable to flip the coveted righty.
Yankees seem like favorites for Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who is sick of playing for "little brother"
Could Yamamoto choose the Mets? After all this? Absolutely. If the money is there (and isn't in the Bronx), then he could easily don the orange and black. He could choose Boston. He could choose the Giants. If the Yankees get late-onset cold feet thinking about Juan Soto's deal, or the Dodgers realize Tyler Glasnow's extension was more of an impediment than they let on, Yamamoto could quickly recant his preferences. Once the bidding passes $300 million, it certainly becomes riskier for all involved (except Cohen, who has the potential to be crazy at the drop of a hat in any scenario).
But, as it stands, it sounds like the Yankees' favored status (and perceived optimism) comes from the fact that they can provide him baseball's biggest stage, as well as the right to join the big brother after years winning Sawamura awards for a secondary squad in Japan -- though, of course, right when this nugget was settling, Misinformation Watchdog Andy Martino dropped a healthy dose of skepticism as a side dish.
Still, after Morosi's report and many similar leaks, it's so odd that the rest of the baseball world seems to be doing all they can to ignore the Yankees and their stated desire to become the "mecca of baseball" once again. With the Yankees, Yamamoto would be paired nicely with Gerrit Cole as the rotation's shiniest new toy. In LA, he'd be overshadowed by Shohei Ohtani. It's impossible not to be when sharing his orbit.
The choice isn't easy. But, if the breadcrumbs are legitimate and the offers are close, the Yankees have every right to be optimistic.