Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the highest-paid Asian player in history, may delay his decision to join Major League Baseball until early next year.
Bob Clafish of the New York Star-Ledger, an eastern U.S. media outlet, reported on Jan. 20 (KST), “The idea that Yamamoto won’t make a decision until after Christmas is spreading among participating clubs. It could drag on until the last minute in early January.
The deadline for Yamamoto to negotiate with Major League Baseball, which was announced in a post on January 22, is 7 a.m. on January 5. That’s 16 days away. Teams are closed during the Christmas week, so if he doesn’t have a contract by Dec. 25, he’ll have no choice but to move on to next year.
Yamamoto has been traveling across the United States since last week, meeting with teams in a series of meetings. The New York Yankees, New York Mets, San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, Toronto Blue Jays, Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox, and Chicago Cubs are the eight teams that have held talks with Yamamoto in the last ten days. This led to speculation before Christmas that Yamamoto would make up his mind.
But the more competition there is, the more difficult it is to finalize a deal. Yamamoto’s asking price has risen to $300 million. The Athletic columnist Jim Borden reported on Dec. 18 that San Francisco and Boston have made offers well in excess of $300 million.
Forbes reported on Tuesday that “The Yamamoto battle has begun after Shohei Ohtani signed the largest contract in Major League Baseball history with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Experts say he could lead the way with a $300 million contract, the most ever for a rookie.
So far, the two New York teams, San Francisco and the Dodgers, appear to be fairly close to Yamamoto.
Yamamoto was invited to New York Mets owner Steve Cohen’s home for dinner on Nov. 17, and held a second round of talks with Yankees brass on Nov. 18. The Mets showed their support earlier this month when Cohen flew to Japan with president Davis Stearns to meet the Yamamoto family, and Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner welcomed Yamamoto to Los Angeles on Dec. 12.
Add to that the fact that San Francisco, which quickly signed Lee Jung-hoo after missing out on Shohei Ohtani, is aggressively pursuing Yamamoto as it looks to bolster its starting rotation, its biggest task this offseason. The Giants tried to match the 10-year, $700 million deal Ohtani signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but were turned down. The Giants have plenty of money after investing $113 million in free agents.
The Dodgers showed their appreciation when Yamamoto visited Dodger Stadium on April 14, with Ohtani hosting him alongside Freeman, Mookie Betts, and Will Smith. Ohtani even sent him a video message when the Dodgers were trying to acquire ace pitcher Tyler Glasnow in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. “He told me he wanted to hit home runs for me next year and pitch with me the year after,” Glasnow confided, before agreeing to a five-year, $136.5 million extension.
There is no team that hasn’t shown interest in Yamamoto.
In an article titled “The Teams Most in Need of Yamamoto,” MLB.com listed the following teams as possible suitors: 1) New York Yankees, 2) San Francisco Giants, 3) New York Mets, 4) Toronto Blue Jays, 5) Los Angeles Dodgers, 6) Boston Red Sox, 7) Chicago Cubs, and 8) Philadelphia Phillies.