2 teams that are prioritizing Yamamoto

November 28th, 2023

Japanese phenom Yoshinobu Yamamoto is coming to the Majors via the posting system. MLB.com is keeping track of the latest news and rumors surrounding the right-handed pitcher.

Nov. 28: These two teams are prioritizing Yamamoto  
The Red Sox and Giants both appear to be prepared to go big for Yamamoto. 

Boston Globe reporter Alex Speier said Tuesday on MLB Network that he expects Boston to be "particularly invested in the Yamamoto sweepstakes."

Speier said he thinks the Red Sox will be aggressive in upgrading their rotation, and cited Boston's successful signing of Japanese starter Daisuke Matsuzaka in the 2006-07 offseason as a model for their strategy in pursuing Yamamoto.

But there will of course be many teams looking to sign the Japanese star. One other club that surfaced in rumors Tuesday was the Giants.

MLB Network insider Jon Paul Morosi reported that San Francisco is prioritizing signing either Yamamoto or Shohei Ohtani "above all other options this offseason."

Nov. 27: Yamamoto 'likely to take time with decision' (report)
Yamamoto is arguably the top free-agent starting pitcher this offseason and has seen half of the league reach out to him, according to his agent Joel Wolfe. That extensive group of interested suitors could prolong Yamamoto's signing timeline. 

Based on the volume of interest, MLB Network insider Jon Paul Morosi reported that Yamamoto is "likely to take time with his decision." Because Yamamoto is a 25-year-old frontline-caliber starter with a big market, Morosi believes that Yamamoto will be deliberate with his process. Yamamoto's 45-day negotiating window opened on Nov. 21 and runs until 5 p.m. ET on Jan. 4, 2024.

Sources told SNY's Andy Martino that Yamamoto would start meeting with MLB teams this week, with conversations being held via phone and Zoom while Yamamoto is in Japan.

Nov. 25: Yamamoto to begin meeting with teams (report)
Sources told SNY's Andy Martino that Yamamoto will start meeting with MLB teams next week. Conversations will be held via phone and Zoom as Yamamoto is expected to be in Japan. 

A double-digit number of teams have expressed interest in Yamamoto, according to his agent, Joel Wolfe. Per Martino, once Yamamoto has chosen the finalists to sign him, he will travel to the United States to meet with those teams in person after the Winter Meetings, which end on Dec. 7.

Yamamoto's negotiating window opened Nov. 21 and runs until 5 p.m. ET on Jan. 4, 2024, but he is expected to sign well before that date. 

A ton of teams have been linked to Yamamoto in the rumor mill recently, including the Mets, Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Cubs, Phillies, Mariners, Rangers, Giants, Cardinals, D-backs and Tigers. They and others will have their opportunity to make their best pitch to the 25-year-old ace very soon.

Nov 22: Nearly half of the league has reached out to Yamamoto
After Yamamoto was officially posted on Nov. 20, MLB teams were able to begin negotiating with the right-hander the following day for a window of 45 days. It didn't take long for teams to start making their interest known.

When speaking to reporters online, Yamamoto's agent Joel Wolfe said that between 11 and 14 teams have expressed interest in the 25-year-old Japanese ace. 

"This is by far the player with the most interested teams that I have ever seen at the beginning of free agency," Wolfe said.

It's hardly a surprise that Yamamoto has garnered this much early interest. 25-year-old frontline starting pitchers don't grow on trees and they're almost never available in free agency at this age. It's widely expected that Yamamoto will sign the largest contract outside of Shohei Ohtani, with MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reporting that Yamamoto's deal could blow past the $200 million mark.

Nov. 20: Teams can begin negotiating with Yamamoto on Tuesday
Yamamoto has officially been posted, and Major League clubs have been notified, a source tells MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.

Starting at 8 a.m. ET on Tuesday, clubs were able to begin negotiating with the 25-year-old Japanese ace for a window of 45 days; the negotiating period ends at 5 p.m. ET on Jan. 4, 2024. So, we should soon find out where Yamamoto will begin his Major League career.

We know that Shohei Ohtani is the No. 1 free agent this offseason, but Yamamoto might be this year's most important free agent. That's because many players, including Ohtani, may see what kind of contract the right-hander lands before inking their own lucrative deals.

Yamamoto is expected to sign this year's richest contract for a starting pitcher, perhaps one well north of $200 million. As such, Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery, Sonny Gray and other top starting pitchers in free agency could wait for Yamamoto to set this winter’s pitching market, Feinsand writes.

It could also be wise for Ohtani to wait and see what happens with Yamamoto, according to The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal (subscription required).

"Losing out on the 25-year-old Yamamoto ... might put certain teams on tilt, improving the landscape for Ohtani," Rosenthal writes.

Nov. 19: Phillies 'still in' on Yamamoto (report)
With "No. 1 priority" Aaron Nola agreeing to a seven-year contract Sunday, the Phillies are moving forward with plans to bolster their staff -- plans that could still include Yamamoto, according to MLB.com's Todd Zolecki. He reported that Bryce Harper was even involved in making a pitch to Yamamoto's camp, which included a sizzle reel.

Nov. 18: Yankees 'extremely interested' in Yamamoto (report)
Monday will likely be a big day for Yamamoto. That's when he is expected to be posted, per ESPN's Buster Olney. That means teams can begin negotiating with him Tuesday.

Yamamoto does not lack suitors. Double-digit teams have reportedly been linked to the 25-year-old Japanese ace in recent days and weeks. That includes the Yankees, who are in "hot pursuit" of Yamamoto, MLB Network insider Jon Heyman writes in the New York Post. He adds that the Yanks are "extremely interested" in Yamamoto, who might end up being their top target of the offseason considering that they are reportedly not as optimistic that Shohei Ohtani will consider playing in New York

Earlier in the week, Heyman reported there some believe Yamamoto may have his own preference to play on the West Coast. However, Heyman writes that people within the Yankees and Mets organizations "suggest they lend no credence" to that rumor.

Nov. 17: Phils, D-backs, Tigers among new reported suitors for Yamamoto
The line of possible suitors for Yamamoto is extensive and seemingly growing by the day.

We know about the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets and Dodgers. The Rangers, Mariners, Cubs, Giants and Cardinals have also been mentioned. And now you can add three more teams to the mix: the Phillies, D-backs and Tigers.

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer's Alex Coffey, the Phillies are "strongly considering" the 25-year-old right-hander from Japan.

“They’ve done significant work on Yamamoto,” one National League scout told Coffey. “Most teams have sent scouts to see him, but I would say the Phillies should be considered one of the top five or six suitors for his services.”

Re-signing Aaron Nola is the Phillies' No. 1 offseason priority. That makes sense as Nola is a frontline starting pitcher who has spent his entire professional in Philadelphia since he was drafted by the franchise in 2014. But if Nola does get away, Yamamoto appears to be the lead backup plan.

Similarly, Jayson Stark of The Athletic (subscription required) wrote Wednesday that Yamamoto is at the top of the Phillies' shopping list -- along with Jordan Montgomery and Sonny Gray -- if they can't retain Nola. 

Meanwhile, MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, writing in the New York Post, listed the D-backs and Tigers among the interested clubs. For Arizona, signing Yamamoto might require the largest free agent contract in franchise history, surpassing the six-year, $206.5 million deal they gave Zack Greinke in 2016. But Yamamoto, Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly and Brandon Pfaadt would be a formidable rotation quartet for the reigning National League champions.

The Tigers' need for Yamamoto is evident after ace left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez opted out of the final three years of his contract and is now a free agent.

Nov. 16: Does Yamamoto prefer the West Coast?
Yamamoto is the top free agent pitcher on this offseason's market, and for good reason. As you'd expect, several teams are reportedly interested in trying to land the Japanese right-hander, including the Yankees, Red Sox and Mets. 

But does Yamamoto prefer to play on the West Coast?

"Some believe Yamamoto may prefer the West Coast [as Shohei Ohtani did six years ago]," writes MLB Network insider Jon Heyman in an article for the New York Post. "If so, the Dodgers, Giants and Padres may have the edge."

Nov. 15: Dodgers, Yanks, Mets, Red Sox involved for Yamamoto
A number of big-market clubs are preparing to make a bid for Yamamoto, who could land a deal north of $200 million. Among the teams with reported interest? The Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, New York Mets and Boston Red Sox.

According to MLB Network insider Jon Paul Morosi, the Dodgers are "among the most interested teams" in Yamamoto. This comes after Morosi reported Tuesday that the Bronx Bombers are "among the most active teams in the starting pitching market" and have Yamamoto and Aaron Nola in their sights.

Yamamoto is said to be "intrigued by the prestige and iconography of the Yankees," sources told SNY's Andy Martino. But the Yankees will also face competition from their crosstown rival, the Mets, and their archrival, the Red Sox.

Martino reports that the Mets are interested in Yamamoto and are being spurred on by starting pitcher Kodai Senga, who has told the club that he wants to be teammates with Yamamoto. Red Sox outfielder Masataka Yoshida was Yamamoto's teammate with the Orix Buffaloes from 2017-22, and their friendship is one reason why Boston is a candidate to sign Yamamoto, according to Martino.

Per ESPN's Jeff Passan (subscription required), the list of teams interested in Yamamoto includes “perhaps San Francisco and Toronto as well.”

One potential factor that could give the Dodgers or Giants an advantage? Geography.

"Put this under rumor for now because we don't know, I haven't been able to confirm this and I don't think the agent is going to confirm it one way or the other, but there are some people who believe Yamamoto has a bit of a preference for the West Coast," MLB Network insider Jon Heyman said in a chat with Bleacher Report on Wednesday.

Nov. 10: Yamamoto an option for Mariners?
According to MLB Network insider Jon Paul Morosi, Yamamoto's posting from the Orix Buffaloes of Nippon Professional Baseball is "imminent." When the 45-day window to sign the Japanese right-hander opens, a host of clubs should be in contention. Yamamoto's market may even include one particular team that doesn’t seem to have a great need for starting pitching.

Morosi mentioned the Mariners as a possible suitor for Yamamoto on Friday. After ranking fourth in the Majors in rotation ERA and 12th in runs scored last season, the club has a greater need for hitting than pitching. However, Morosi believes the team could look to sign Yamamoto in free agency and trade a controllable arm such as Logan Gilbert for a bat, rather than pursuing a top free-agent hitter.

The Mariners have a rich history investing in talent from Japan, from the legendary Ichiro Suzuki to Kazuhiro Sasaki to Hisashi Iwakuma. Morosi said Seattle general manager Jerry Dipoto told him the club is “looking to re-establish that connection to Japan.”

Morosi reported Friday that the Cubs, Red Sox, Giants, Dodgers, Cardinals and Yankees are also among the contenders to sign Yamamoto. The righty has been linked to the Mets as well, with New York reportedly "enamored" with him.

Yamamoto posted a 1.21 ERA in NPB in 2023, with 169 strikeouts in 164 innings. The righty boasts a pitch mix few MLB hurlers possess, including a high-90s fastball and a plus splitter.

Yamamoto's arsenal could make him in line for the biggest payday of any free agent starter -- excluding two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani, who underwent right elbow surgery in September and is not expected to pitch again until 2025.

“Of course, Shohei’s in a category unto himself, but Yamamoto is the most in-demand starting pitcher who’s going to be a starting pitcher in 2024," Morosi said.

Five of the six teams connected by Morosi to Yamamoto finished in the top half of team payrolls in 2023, with the Yankees second at more than $278 million, per Spotrac. The Athletic's Jim Bowden (subscription required) projected a seven-year, $211 million contract for Yamamoto, while MLB Trade Rumors estimated the pitcher's deal at nine years and $225 million. Once Yamamoto is posted to MLB, some high-stakes bidding by some of MLB's highest-payroll clubs is to be expected.