Yoshinobu Yamamoto mets yankees
Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

Japan will be the belle of MLB’s free agency ball this winter with not only Shohei Ohtani headlining the class, but also his WBC teammate Yoshinobu Yamamoto.

We’ve recently discussed the young righty and how much he would bring to any MLB team. Yamamoto turned 25 in August and just turned in an incredible season for Nippon Professional Baseball’s (NPB) Orix Buffaloes. He went 17-6 with an eye-popping 1.21 ERA and does a good job both striking out hitters and controlling his pitches.

Throw in his second career no-hitter last month, and Yamamoto absolutely has his eyes on MLB. And per Will Sammon of The Athletic, he also “covets the opportunity to play in a large market.”

Lucky for Yoshinobu Yamamoto, MLB has big markets aplenty. We know the Yankees are interested. General manager Brian Cashman was in attendance at Yamamoto’s no-no last month, thus missing Old Timers’ Day. In turn, Sammon mentions the crosstown Mets are also in play.

And it isn’t just New York. Let’s take a look at each team reportedly targeting Yoshinobu Yamamoto and see if we can figure whose odds are strongest.

Los Angeles Dodgers. It’s all but certain that the Dodgers will sign Ohtani to a record contract this offseason. However, USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale adds Yamamoto is also one of LA’s targets. Even if he’s just a Plan B in case Ohtani stays with the Angels, the Dodgers can still justify giving him a mega-contract. And they have the money, too.

New York Mets. The Mets may have an in-house advantage in the Yoshinobu Yamamoto sweepstakes. Sammon notes righty Kodai Senga, another one of Yamamoto’s WBC teammates, is lobbying the front office to sign the youngster. It won’t be easy, what with the Mets entering a rebuild under David Stearns and also needing to think about extending Pete Alonso.

However, Steve Cohen is a motivated owner. If Senga keeps lobbying and Stearns is on the same page, Yamamoto could be the Mets’ to lose.

San Francisco Giants. Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic reported on Thursday that, like Cashman, Giants president Farhan Zaidi went to Japan for one reason: Watch Yoshinobu Yamamoto. However, anyone who saw the Giants’ failed bid to sign Aaron Judge and then Carlos Correa knows this isn’t happening.

San Francisco can try, but they’re not signing Yamamoto. Some surmise he can easily command $200 million and Giants ownership just doesn’t give out those contracts. They wouldn’t even outbid the Mets’ $75 million offer for Senga. Bringing Yamamoto to the Bay Area is a pipe dream.

New York Yankees. At the end of the day, the Yoshinobu Yamamoto race is probably between the Mets and Yankees. The Bronx Bombers need another reliable arm in the rotation and if Cashman wants the young righty badly enough, he’ll sign him. The Mets are equally motivated for their own reasons.

So what do the Yankees do? Remember, they also need a left fielder and might not want to gamble on prospect Everson Pereira. Maybe Cashman trades for a bat and makes Yamamoto is main offseason priority. Or one or the other.

Either way, the Yankees clearly like Yoshinobu Yamamoto. If they want him enough, they won’t be outbid.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.