Yoshinobu Yamamoto mets yankees
Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

Japanese pitching superstar Yoshinobu Yamamoto is taking in-person meetings with MLB teams next week, and New York awaits his decision with baited breath.

The 25-year-old is drawing plenty of interest, particuarly from MLB’s New York teams. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman traveled to Japan in September to watch Yamamoto pitch for the Orix Buffaloes. Of course, Yamamoto pitched a no-hitter that evening.

Meanwhile, the crosstown rival Mets are cooking up a hefty offer in Queens. Their interest seems to match Cashman’s too. Owner Steve Cohen and new team president David Stearns reportedly met with Yamamoto in Japan last week.

Which deep pocketed team will sign Yoshinobu Yamamoto? And is New York City prepared for any potential fallout thereafter? Has the MTA been notified to expect delays on the D and/or 7 lines?

Granted, the Yankees and Mets aren’t alone in their pursuit. Will Sammon of The Athletic names the Giants and two mystery teams among five other finalists. The New York teams, however, can easily offer the most money.

Let’s start with the Mets. Cohen isn’t afraid to spend and wants an impact arm even as his team rebuilds in 2024. Yamamoto instantly boosts a rotation otherwise headlined by Kodai Senga. And after he posted a 1.16 ERA for Orix last year, not to mention his 1.72 career mark in Japan, Yamamoto may easily command $300 million. It’s hard to imagine that being too rich for Cohen.

However, the Yankees also have plenty to offer Yamamoto. They’re regular contenders coming off of one rare bad season. They have a long and storied history with Japanese players, particularly former star outfielder and World Series MVP Hideki Matsui. In fact, Bob Klapisch of NJ.com reported Matsui would attend a scheduled meeting between the Yankees and Yamamoto on Monday.

The Yankees also have a special relationship with Japanese pitchers dating back to the 1990s. Hideki Irabu won two rings in the Bronx and set the tone for Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) players making the move to MLB. Hiroki Kuroda wasn’t a Yankee until his late thirties and was still a reliable innings eater for three years.

And I think we all remember fan favorite Masahiro Tanaka.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto is better than all of them. Both New York teams know it. Klapisch adds that the Yankees feel they’re “ahead of the pack” on the young righty.

Oppositely, Jon Heyman at the New York Post names Cohen and the Mets as the frontrunners. But according to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser, it’s the Giants who “have an edge.”

This will only fuel the bidding war between the Yankees and Mets. Brian Cashman will make a healthy offer, probably nine years and well over $200 million. Maybe even closer to $250 million.

And knowing Steve Cohen? Well, who knows? Maybe he insists on a 10-year, $300 million offer. Maybe Stearns talks him down into something more realistic instead of a pure overpay.

Let’s be real, folks. Barring Shohei Ohtani shocking the world and signing with the Blue Jays over the Dodgers, Yoshinobu Yamamoto is almost certainly New York-bound. Cue the Subway Series intensifying, no matter who signs him.

Cashman and Cohen, start your engines.

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.