The top-heavy free agent pitching market won't be the Yankees' primary objective this offseason, but one name still towers above the rest: Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the 25-year-old Japanese righty who rivals Masahiro Tanaka's projectability.
Yamamoto will earn a contract valued between $200-250 million, in all likelihood, and though the sum of the contract might be offset by a patented "stretch" to lower the AAV, the right-hander will still cost someone a pretty penny.
Will it be the Yankees, a team with a solid-but-unspectacular rotation that levels up if Carlos Rodón looks like himself, but levels down if he struggles again (and Nestor Cortes Jr. never returns)? What about the Mets, where Kodai Senga is still polishing off his recruiting speech, and has made it quite clear he'd prefer if Steve Cohen spent his money on this particular right arm?
Of course, there's always the Red Sox, where Craig Breslow is seeking two -- or was it three? -- top-flight starting pitchers to attempt to vault his team's solid offense immediately back into contention? Adding starters isn't a luxury for the Red Sox. It's quite literally the difference between them being eternal also-rans and a legitimate threat. That's why it should come as no surprise that SNY's Andy Martino believes the Yankees, Mets and Sox are the top three teams in the Yamamoto chase, now that the bidding has formally opened.
Yankees Rumors: Battle coming with Red Sox for Yoshinobu Yamamoto?
After officially being posted on Mon., Nov. 20, the 45-day window is now open to earn Yamamoto's services. The pitcher will reportedly begin meeting with teams in early December, but will not be attending the Winter Meetings.
Martino specified in his breaking news piece, launched at the time of Yamamoto's posting, that the right-hander is "intrigued" by the idea of playing for the Yankees. He's likely similarly intrigued by cold, hard cash, though, and both the Mets and (after a long dry spell) Red Sox have a good deal of that, too. Senga's begging and Breslow's desperation could also be matched by the Dodgers (who bid $165 million for Aaron Nola in a losing effort) and the Phillies, according to Martino's survey of baseball's big-market landscape.
Some Japanese stars harbor less than no interest in sharing the locker room with their fellow countrymen. Apparently, that's not a problem for Senga, who has gone above and beyond to assure the Mets that he has taken a 180 from that approach. The Red Sox, if they're planning to get heavily involved, have likely gotten similar assurances from Masataka Yoshida (and/or Shohei Ohtani).
The Yankees would probably be wise to figure out how future first base option Munetaka Murakami feels about all this, but, regardless, cannot afford to bring their second-best package to the Yamamoto meetings. If they slip up, several big names (and closely associated rivals) will be following right behind.