Contrary to the popularly disseminated narrative a few weeks ago, the Yankees didn't duck out of the Yoshinobu Yamamoto bidding because the Japanese pitcher was in the process of commanding a contract larger than Gerrit Cole's, and they disagreed with that idea on principle.
They balked at such a suggestion not because nobody on the team would be allowed to eclipse Cole, but because Yamamoto's market somehow spiraling out of control past Cole's was one of the craziest things they'd collectively heard.
Entering the winter, the Yankees had seen enough of Yamamoto to know they wanted to commit splashy money to the young right-hander. After all, players of his age and capability rarely hit the open market. After Brian Cashman returned from scouting the righty in person in Japan (and watching a no-hitter in the process), the consensus was New York would be leading the bidding, and the bidding would be between $150 and $200 million. That was ... not where things ended up.
The Dodgers tucked Shohei Ohtani neatly into their budget and appealed to both players' heretofore unknown desire to team up. The Yankees didn't know about that and couldn't have possibly accounted for it. But ... even if that hadn't lined up perfectly for LA ... the Yankees were tapped out at $300 million and probably weren't even comfortable there.
As Andy Martino said on the Bronx Pinstripes Show this week, even while the Yankees were heavily involved, they still couldn't believe what they were doing, all to be turned down by a guy who's never thrown a big-league pitch.
Yankees thought Yoshinobu Yamamoto pursuit entered crazytown before he went to LA
Yes, the dude's clearly just that good. And yes, there are plenty of advanced WBC data points that can be used to determine his likely value to a big-league team.
But ... the point this bidding reached sounded crazy when it landed, and the Yankees thought so, too. And, congratulations to them, because they never had a chance at any price after the Dodgers pulled off the coup of the century and Yamamoto's camp used the Yanks to drain every possible dollar from LA's budget.
For everyone worried the Yankees might bow out of the Juan Soto bidding next winter because he'd command more than Aaron Judge, it's safe to say that won't be the reason they lose out if things don't go their way. Soto's a proven big-leaguer. Yamamoto's a great idea who has yet to reestablish himself stateside. These two things are not one and the same. Luckily, it seems New York's braintrust knows that.