According to sources, the Yankees have completed an important first step in the Yoshinobu Yamamoto free agent chase, a pedestal they never reached with Shohei Ohtani in 2017: actually getting a meeting.
Bob Klapisch, with boots on the ground at the Winter Meetings, was the first to reveal what some believed to be inevitable, but those who followed the Ohtani chase last time around will doubt until the man is actually in the building. The Yankees' braintrust has plenty of pomp and circumstance planned for Yamamoto, with Hideki Matsui reportedly already on the case, speaking with the right-hander ahead of his arrival. The Mets, also in line for a meeting, have leaned on Kodai Senga heavily early in the recruitment process. Therefore, the Yankees can't afford to ignore any edge they might have over 2023's Cy Young runner-up in the National League.
Of course, everyone thinks they're nailing it until the cards are actually on the table and a decision has to be made. The Dodgers will reportedly turn their attention fully to Yamamoto if they miss out on Shohei Ohtani (and it's quite possible they'll know that soon). The Mets and Steve Cohen's Millions are firmly in play. The San Francisco Giants have reportedly been telling teams that, like Derek Jeter in his old Ford commercial, they've got an edge.
Count the Yankees as the Giants' confidence equal, as an American League executive told Klapisch with a sly smile on Monday that New York's braintrust doesn't think their work has gone for naught.
"The Yankees are telling people they’re ahead of the pack on (Yoshinobu) Yamamoto. Like, way ahead."- Bob Klapisch
Yankees insiders believe they have edge ahead of Yoshinobu Yamamoto meeting
It's possible the Yankees are reading the room wrong. It's plausible that several teams are in the same arena, each trying to convert a 3rd & 2 against the same defense. But maybe, just maybe, Brian Cashman flying to Japan and sitting front row for Yamamoto's eventual no-hitter wasn't just a gesture. Maybe, as we heard when word leaked that the team has been sitting on his No. 18 for over a year, the Yankees have planned several seasons around landing this massive fish. Maybe Cashman wasn't afraid of angering Yamamoto's agent Joel Wolfe because he already knew where his team stood.
Yamamoto has until Jan. 4 to sign, technically, but seems likely to inch closer to a pact next week after getting his home visits in with the current group of finalists. That means it won't be too long before we find out whose edge is sharpest -- and, according to Andy Martino, the Yankees are willing to go to $300 million to make sure their meeting is a fruitful one. Perhaps that's why they were so confident all along.