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Big 2026 news: Munetaka Murakami said ‘Yankees’ on Japanese TV

In the interest of full transparency, I must concede I do not speak Japanese. Just wanted to get that out there.

However, I can confirm the guy on the far right is two-time Central League MVP Munetaka Murakami, the Yakult Swallows’ slugging third baseman and the youngest Triple Crown winner in NPB history. And he definitely said “Yankees.” So we are free and clear to write and speculate.

Murakami, 22, signed a new deal with the Swallows in December and won’t be posted until after the 2025 season. But it is never too late to start dreaming. Imagine this guy taking aim at Yankee Stadium’s short porch in right field on a regular basis. My goodness. The glow-up, going from watching Josh Donaldson to watching this guy.

The numbers on Murakami, via NESN:

In 2021, Murakami earned MVP honors. That season he batted .278/.566/.408 and crushed 39 home runs with 27 doubles and 112 RBIs in 143 games. That ceiling rose to an insane level for Murakami in his follow-up campaign.

The left-handed hitter crushed 56 homers — the most by a Japanese player since Sadaharu Oh (55) in 1964. He also batted a career-high .318/.710/.458 with 21 doubles and 134 RBIs. Not to mention Murakami notched a 1.168 OPS and 10.2 WAR which earned him both a Triple Crown and his second straight MVP award. Murakami also became the first unanimous MVP winner since Oh in 1977.

Murakami did apparently say he would prefer to be on the West Coast during this interview. But the Yankees are the Yankees. Get Hideki Matsui on the phone with the kid, write a big enough check and it will happen. Well, as long as Steve Cohen does not decide to empty out his loose change can over cocktails in Maui.

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James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]

James Kratch is the managing editor of ESNY. He previously worked as a Rutgers and Giants (and Mike Francesa) beat reporter for NJ Advance Media.