Yoshinobu Yamamoto Rumors: Yankees Believe They Are ‘Way Ahead’ Of Interested Teams

Although Shohei Ohtani has been the focus of MLB free agency and this week’s Winter Meetings in Nashville, Yoshinobu Yamamoto has a robust market of interested teams as well.

Thus far the right-hander has most prominently been connected to the likes of the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants. But it was recently reported more than half of all teams had expressed some level of interest in the 25-year-old since he was posted by the Orix Buffaloes in November.

In the case of the Dodgers and Giants, they appear to be entrenched in the Ohtani sweepstakes as well.

The Yankees once were part of that group but have since shifted their focus to a potential Juan Soto trade and reportedly are confident they have emerged as the favorite to sign Yamamoto, according to Bob Klapisch of NJ.com:

“The Yankees are telling people they’re ahead of the pack on (Yoshinobu) Yamamoto. Like, way ahead.”

The Yankees have a history of signing Japanese free agents making the jump to MLB, and their success with Hideki Matsui and Masahiro Tanaka could influence Yamamoto’s decision. Tanaka also was 25 years old upon signing with the Yankees, and he went on to spend eight seasons with the team.

Furthermore, it was recently reported the Yankees have been saving No. 18 for Yamamoto to wear. It’s what he wore with Orix and traditionally is viewed as the jersey number for the ace of a pitching staff in Japan.

Hiroki Kuroda, began his MLB career with the Dodgers, wore No. 18 upon joining the Yankees later in his career.

Although the Yankees reportedly are confident in their odds to sign Yamamoto, executives from other teams recently mentioned the Giants as being the favorite.

San Francisco is said to be determined to sign Ohtani or Yamamoto this offseason. Because of the widespread interest and demand for starting pitching, it’s believed Yamamoto’s contract could end up approaching $300 million in total value.

When will Yoshinobu Yamamoto sign?

Yamamoto is not expected to sign during the final days of the Winter Meetings and likely is going to begin sitting down with teams in person next week.

The deadline for Yamamoto to sign with a team is 2 p.m. PT on January 4, 2024.

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