Which of Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s Finalists Need Him The Most?

With Shohei Ohtani off the board, Yoshinobu Yamamoto is the best-available free agent. Which of his suitors needs him the most?

BUNKYO CITY, JAPAN - MARCH 12: Yoshinobu Yamamoto #18 of Team Japan pitches during Game 8 of Pool B between Team Japan and Team Australia at Tokyo Dome on Sunday, March 12, 2023 in Bunkyo City, Japan. (Photo by Yuki Taguchi/WBCI/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Things have gone back to radio silence on the MLB free agent market. After Shohei Ohtani came off the board, the expectation was that the rest of the dominoes would begin to fall.

Instead, most of the best-available bats and pitchers both remain free agents. This includes Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who is easily the best pitcher left.

Yamamoto, 25, is set to come Stateside after one of the most successful seven-year stints in NPB history. The right-hander has a career 1.72 ERA and has been one of the best at limiting baserunners.

The list of suitors for his services is a long one. In latest reports, the Yankees, Mets, Giants, Dodgers, Red Sox, Phillies and Blue Jays are the teams that have checked in in the past two weeks.

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MLB insider Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic said in a video on Monday that the Phillies and Blue Jays were both “on the periphery of the bidding” rather than firmly in the middle of the negotiations. For now, it seems that they’re going to wait it out and see where Yamamoto’s market goes.

Rumor has it that teams are already offering Yamamoto deals north of $300 million. However, ESPN’s Jeff Passan threw some cold water on those rumors, stating that he was told these claims are inaccurate as of now.

There are a handful of teams preparing to make an aggressive pursuit after one of this year’s top free agents. Let’s break down the fits and see which team(s) need Yamamoto the most.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto Finalists


This offseason, the Dodgers are far and away the most active club in the league. Shohei Ohtani, Joe Kelly and Jason Heyward were all signed as free agents; while Tyler Glasnow and Manuel Margot were brought over via trade from the Rays.

With Ohtani’s contract featuring a hefty amount of deferred money, there’s no real need for the Dodgers to stop spending. The ownership has made it abundantly clear that 2024 is a season that they’re going to go “all in”, so why wouldn’t Yamamoto want to join them?

Where’s the fit?

The fit on the Dodgers is rather obvious. Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin are both on the long-term injured list, and Ryan Yarbrough, who is best suited as a swingman rather than a reliable rotation cog, is currently projected to be the club’s no. 4 starter. The fit is most definitely there, but it’s worth noting that this Dodgers team is a World Series contender with or without Yamamoto.

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What are their backup plans?

Any player they want, really. Dylan Cease has come up in trade talks, while Lucas Giolito and Clayton Kershaw are free agents on their radar.


The Giants have promised to be spenders in free agency, but these promises have largely failed to come to fruition. Signing Jung Hoo Lee to a six-year deal is a solid start, but the moves should be far from over.

Where’s the fit?

Behind Logan Webb, it’s slim pickings in the Giants projected rotation. Alex Cobb is injured and Anthony DeSclafani is no longer reliable enough to be the consistent innings-eater the Giants need him to be. Ditto for Ross Stripling. Kyle Harrison and Keaton Winn, a pair of promising prospects, should get looks to open the 2024 campaign but there’s a rather large hole in the rotation that Yamamoto could fill.

What are their backup plans?

Farhan Zaidi still feels that there are multiple different avenues the club could take to address their rotation. Blake Snell, Marcus Stroman, Jordan Montgomery and essentially all non-Yamamoto pieces should be on the table if they miss out on the Japanese phenom.

The Giants, unlike others on this list, need to fill multiple holes on their roster, so any upgrade to their rotation would need a corresponding upgrade to the offense.


The Mets are in need of a big splash. Steve Cohen and David Stearns both have a lot to prove this offseason, and so far it’s been crickets. Luis Severino, Michael Tonkin, Jorge Lopez and Austin Adams have all been brought aboard to fill out the pitching staff, but none move the needle like a Yamamoto signing would.

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To many in the industry, the Yamamoto sweepstakes largely seem to be down to the Mets or the Yankees. Both New York squads could use him in the worst way.

Where’s the fit?

Kodai Senga and Jose Quintana performed well last year and are expected to be key pieces in the 2024 rotation. Severino is coming off of a dreadful 2023 season and Tylor Megill and Joey Lucchesi, the No. 4 and 5 starters as of right now, both come with their fair share of warts. Adding Yamamoto would help out this rotation immensely.

What are their backup plans?

There’s a sense of “Yamamoto or bust” for the Mets here. The club really wants him, so it’ll be tough for other clubs to outbid Cohen and his deep pockets. Should they come up short, experienced arms like James Paxton or Hyun Jin Ryu feel likely. Otherwise, Snell, Montgomery and Stroman all fit the bill as higher-cost targets.

Red Sox

The Red Sox have been pretty quiet this offseason, as have most other teams. Outside of their swap(s) that essentially traded Alex Verdugo for Tyler O’Neill, it’s been quiet. Their offense figures to be one of the premier groups in the league, but the pitching staff needs an upgrade.

It seems that Boston considers Yamamoto to be a top of the rotation arm. This in mind, ownership should be very aggressive if they are to pry him away from the Big Apple.

Where’s the fit?

Chris Sale is already expected to be the club’s Opening Day starter in 2024, but he’s been made of glass in recent years. Nick Pivetta excelled in multiple different roles last year, but he’s followed by a whole lot of uncertainty in Brayan Bello, Kutter Crawford and Tanner Houck. The Red Sox have a fairly bleak rotation picture, so the fit for Yamamoto could not be more clear.

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What are their backup plans?

Early reports in the offseason seemed to indicate that the Red Sox would try to upgrade their rotation via trade before turning to the free agent market. If Yamamoto doesn’t sign, players like Corbin Burnes, Shane Bieber or Dylan Cease could be packing their bags and flying to Boston as soon as possible.


While this is an alphabetical list, it also seems that we’ve saved the best for last. The Yankees have never been a club that isn’t going to check in on the top-available talent each offseason. After bringing aboard Juan Soto and Alex Verdugo, their offense has been addressed. With Shohei Ohtani going elsewhere, it seems that ownership is itching to spend their money elsewhere.

Where’s the fit?

Unlike others on this list, the Yankees already have a pretty solid rotation. Gerrit Cole will once again return as the staff ace. Behind him, Carlos Rodon and Nestor Cortes are a pair of lefties in need of a bounce back, while Clarke Schmidt and Clayton Beeter are respectable back-of-the-rotation options. Beeter has yet to make his big league debut, so a Yamamoto signing could push him down to Triple-A and give the Yankees a vaunted rotation that can compete with anyone.

What are their backup plans?

Should Yamamoto elect to sign elsewhere, the entire league is going to be on the Yankees’ radar. Trade fits like Burnes, Bieber and Cease are likely; while Montgomery and Snell are both options via free agency.

Which team needs Yamamoto the most?

There is a two-part answer to this question. The Mets need Yamamoto because ownership has a lot to prove and an upgrade is needed in the rotation. On the other side of town, the Yankees have something to prove in their quest to keep up with the Dodgers as baseball’s top team.

It remains to be seen which club will emerge victorious, but teams have until January 4 to sign Yamamoto, so expect a decision soon.

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