The Yankees appear to have lost the Yoshinobu Yamamoto chase from the moment the Japanese right-hander became aware of baseball and picked a team, but that doesn't change the poor optics of landing on the third-largest offer for their "top target." Objectively speaking, the Yankees did years of legwork, sent Brian Cashman across the globe, printed a No. 18 jersey, received a second meeting, staked their offseason on one singular right arm, and finished third. No matter how you get there, that's the truth.
Yamamoto's childhood Dodger fandom and the chance to share a locker room with Shohei Ohtani (who knew just how to make this contract financially viable) made Los Angeles too tempting to pass up. But, try as we might, we just can't get this little gnat out of our brain that says something might be rotten in the Bronx. Again.
On Monday, Ken Rosenthal became the latest MLB insider to speculate that New York's braintrust might not have wanted to pay Yamamoto more than their current ace, Gerrit Cole. While it sounds like a convenient way to save face after it became clear Yamamoto had preferred the Dodgers his entire life, the repeated mentions of a hard-and-fast $324 million limit by multiple insiders are worrisome.
If true, were the Yankees unwilling to pay an unproven talent more than Cole? Would they feel the same way about Aaron Judge vs. Juan Soto next winter, which would result in Soto departing? Or was it just the sheer number that scared them? Considering Yamamoto grew up preferring the Dodgers and Ohtani tucked the necessary amount of money away in a cubby to pave his path, New York would've probably had to add $50 million to the Cole deal to have a chance. Did they feel that would look bad, or do they object to the fundamental concept of topping Cole's deal?
Yankees wouldn't have gotten Yoshinobu Yamamoto even if they'd exceeded Gerrit Cole's contract
Ultimately, any consternation about upping their bid to $325 million was completely irrelevant; Yamamoto had designs on joining Ohtani on the Dodgers, and the Yankees could not provide the west coast or the game's preeminent Japanese superstar at any price.
But ... we know Yamamoto preferred the Dodgers all along. He said it himself. It's as close to a known fact as you can get in this nebulous business. Why do insiders keep parroting the line about the Yankees' fears of eclipsing the Cole contract? Why do they want us to learn this information so badly, despite it (almost 100%) being a non-factor in the chase in question?
Either they're teaming up to make the Yamamoto battle seem more interesting than it really was, or they're sowing some uncomfortable seeds of doubt for next winter's biggest prize. Aaron Judge is selfless enough to not care about sharing a clubhouse with a star with a larger contract, but Hal Steinbrenner might be thrifty enough to use someone else's perceived thoughts as an excuse.