If you thought Farhan Zaidi and the Giants refusing to be outbid in the Yoshinobu Yamamoto chase might throw a wrench in the Yankees' plans, then it's probably time to pay attention to the more prominent elephant in the room.
That would be the other Japanese ace, imported last year to the New York Mets, who's currently back in Japan making no secret of the fact that he'd like the nation's top free agent pitcher to fill one of his team's three current rotation holes.
Believe it or not, the free-spending Mets might be even more desperate for starting pitching than the current Yankees, who employ Gerrit Cole, Michael King, Clarke Schmidt (for now), and a fleet of question marks. Last winter's Justin Verlander coup didn't work out (until Verlander made it to another city). Neither did their mid-level splurge on Jose Quintana. Max Scherzer left town and leaked the next 365 days' worth of front office plans, so it's safe to say that was a tough look.
Kodai Senga might've been New York's only real win last offseason. They secured the Ghost Forked hurler for a bargain five-year, $75 million deal, which is sure to be dwarfed by Yamamoto's incoming contract.
The Yankees know they'll have to top $200 million to be involved 'til the end, as do the Giants. The Mets? They have a righty fresh off 166.1 innings of 2.98 ERA baseball who's spending his offseason in Japan "making it known" that he wants Yamamoto to join him in Flushing. Contrary to rumored belief, Yamamoto would also reportedly have no issues sharing the clubhouse spotlight with a fellow countryman.
Mets' Kodai Senga wants Yankees target Yoshinobu Yamamoto
WIll Sammon of The Athletic reports that it remains unknown whether the 25-year-old Yamamoto will hold a U.S. free agency tour, which might explain the diligence of Brian Cashman's trip to Japan.
Regardless, even though the Mets are missing Billy Eppler -- the man who landed both Shohei Ohtani and Masahiro Tanaka -- that loss seems likely to pale in comparison to the role Senga can play in the proceedings, either in New York or overseas.
Yamamoto's possible trepidation about sharing the locker room with a fellow countryman -- which some Japanese stars certainly feel -- seemed to be one of the Yankees' very few advantages over the Mets. Now, if his potential future Japanese teammate is rallying in support of the merger, too? It'll be tough to see the Yankees overcoming so many hurdles, despite Cashman's early start.