MLB free agency features a very intriguing name at the top of the list this offseason, and we’re not talking about Shohei Ohtani. While Ohtani is at the very top of the list, right behind him is Yoshinobu Yamamoto, a right-handed pitcher set to join MLB after seven seasons pitching for the top league in Japan. Yamamoto is a two-time NPB MVP, a three-time Triple Crown winner, and a five-time All-Star, and he’s still just 25 years old.
Yamamoto is expected to be posted by the Orix Buffaloes on Monday, opening a 45-day signing window for MLB teams to negotiate. But which franchises are ideal fits for the hard-throwing righty? Here are just five teams who are expected to be heavily in the mix to sign Yamamoto.
Boston Red Sox reunite Masataka Yoshida with Yoshinobu Yamamoto
When putting together a list of ideal destinations for Yamamoto, the Red Sox admittedly probably aren’t the first team that comes off the tongue. But they should be. The Red Sox have one factor working in their favor that other teams can not compete with, and that’s a strong friendship between Yamamoto and Boston outfielder Masataka Yoshida, who spent six seasons together as teammates with the Buffaloes in Japan.
Not to mention, the Red Sox do have a major need for frontline starters after ranking 11th among 14 AL teams in runs allowed during the 2023 season. Yamamoto would provide an instant boost on the field, and his mere presence could also help fill the stands at Fenway Park, re-igniting the excitement around baseball in Boston.
San Francisco Giants land big fish in free agency
Perhaps you’ve heard, but the Giants have BIG plans in MLB free agency this offseason. We know, it’s a line they’ve used each of the past few years. But this time, the front office insists they’re serious. While the fans may be at the point where they’ll believe it when they see it, getting involved in Yamamoto’s negotiations would be a strong start.
Some have speculated that Yamamoto may be fond of the idea of playing on the West Coast, and if so, the Giants have a natural advantage built in. Yet, the desperation and willingness to spend while adding multiple pieces could also be enticing for the potential future superstar.
Los Angeles Dodgers bolster pitching staff
The Dodgers had to learn the hard way last season that they didn’t have enough depth on the staff, with Clayton Kershaw battling injuries at the most inopportune times. Of course, the Dodgers still had a strong season, as getting 100 wins is never easy, but no one was happy with the end result.
If Yamamoto has winning a World Series near the top of his wish list, the Dodgers may present the best option. No team in baseball has been more consistent or willing to spend in pursuit of chasing the next title than the Dodgers, and Yamamoto may have a hard time turning down the opportunity to join a club that’s won over 100 games each of the past three seasons, plus what will nearly be a blank check.
New York Yankees break the bank for Yamamoto
Of course the Yankees should be considered a legit contender for signing one of the top free agents available. This is still a team owned by the Steinbrenners, right? Brian Cashman can feel the pressure to win mounting in the Big Apple, not just internally but also from a demanding fanbase that expects excellence year in, and year out.
Six years ago, the Yankees missed out on signing Shohei Ohtani, and he’s since become the face of baseball. While the ceiling isn’t quite the same for Yamamoto, since he doesn’t play both sides of the ball, he does have superstar potential. Simply put, the Yankees can’t afford not to sign him, especially knowing the risk that he could bring a massive boost to any fanbase he joins.
New York Mets land another potential Japanese ace
Another great scenario for Yamamoto involves landing with the Mets, who signed Kodai Senga last offseason and has reportedly told upper management he’d like to pair up with the former Olympic gold medalist. The Mets may have just tried to clear payroll last season after pushing all their chips in failed them, but again, if Yamamoto has a mutual interest, the Mets would be foolish to look the other way.
The chance to add a bonafide ace, who still hasn’t even hit the peak of his career yet doesn’t come around often, and everyone associated with the Mets knows this. If it’s just money we’re talking about here, then Mets owner Steve Cohen has nothing to lose.