Did the Mets Visit to Japan Make an Impact?


Aug 4, 2021; Yokohama, Japan; Team Japan pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto (17) reacts against Korea in a baseball semifinal match during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Yokohama Baseball Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

(Queens, NY) – The entire baseball world is waiting for the shoe to drop: when will Shohei Ohtani decide his future, and where will he sign? But at the same time, another source of intrigue continues to gain buzz for MLB: where will Ohtani’s fellow countrymen Yoshinobu Yamamoto sign? Unlike Ohtani, Yamamoto is not a slugger.

Yet they both have one thing in common: the ability to pitch at the top of a starting rotation when healthy.

Still just 25-years-old, Yamamoto has been one of the top pitchers in NPB for several seasons, having made his debut as a pro in Japan in 2017.

He’s since won the Pacific League MVP three times, the Japanese pitching triple crown three times, and he’s been an NPB All-Star five times. Given the high level of interest among MLB teams, it’s expected that Yamamoto will eventually ink a contract worth north of $300 million.

Mandatory Credit: Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

Reports say the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs, and both New York teams are attempting to sign Yamamoto. According to SNY insider Andy Martino, it’s long been believed that the Yankees have the inside track, and they’re apparently willing to spend “Evil Empire” levels of cash to make it happen.

Also, Martino says Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner is remaining aggressive and intends to keep spending, even after acquiring superstar outfielder Juan Soto in a trade. Apparently, there had been some hope among Mets’ executives that the Soto deal would dampen the Yankees pursuit of Yamamoto – but that isn’t the case.

As for the Mets, Martino reports they increased their chances of signing the star pitcher by taking a recent trip to Japan. Mets team president David Stearns and owner Steve Cohen flew to Tokyo and shared a meal with Yamamoto – they ate Japanese-French fusion cuisine apparently. Present at the meeting was Yamamoto, his mom, and Hiro Fujiwara – who serves as Mets’ ace Kodai Senga’s translator.

Mandatory Credit: Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets are now awaiting to hear whether Yamamoto would like to meet with them in New York – the Yankees are meeting with him on Monday.

Competing executives say they’re blown away by how the market for Yamamoto is developing. One agent told Martino “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen so many teams in on a player.” Another club executive described the situation as more or less “like an auction,” adding the “demand is insane.”

Martino referred to sources familiar with Yamamoto’s thinking and said the expectation is he will sign somewhere before Christmas.

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