Yoshinobu Yamamoto has the baseball world in the palm of his hand right now. The 25-year-old Japanese phenom will inevitably soon become one of the highest-paid players in the MLB without having thrown a single pitch in the league.
Yesterday, Jon Heyman reported that the "real" bidding for Yamamoto's services has commenced, with his camp now accepting free-agent offers. There is a growing belief that the ace will wait to make his decision until after Christmas, and could even drag it out until after the New Year.
Where Do Things Stand Between the Red Sox and Yoshinobu Yamamoto?
Over the last 48 hours, the Yankees and Mets have reportedly emerged as front-runners. Yamamoto made an East Coast tour last week, with Boston a glaring omission on his travel itinerary, while he met with representatives from both the Yankees and Mets in the Big Apple.
Yamamoto's reported desire to "pitch on the biggest stage" has only fueled speculation that he will end up with one of the two New York clubs.
Reporting about Yamamoto and the Red Sox has been contradictory at times, creating a roller coaster of emotions for fans. On Tuesday, former MLB general manager Jim Bowden said on Dec. 17 that both the Red Sox and San Francisco Giants had extended contract offers north of $300 million for the Japanese starter, and that both of those clubs were "legitimately in this thing."
However, the New York Post immediately poured cold water on this report Monday night, reporting that "During Yamamoto’s recent meetings with teams, broad contract parameters were discussed, without 'serious' offers presented."
Rather, initial meetings between teams and Yamamoto "served more as a forum for teams and the player to get to know each other." Finally, the source notes that the pitcher would begin accepting formal offers on Monday, Dec. 18. That would obviously run contrary to Bowden's report, as the Sox and Giants couldn't have offered those contracts if Yamamoto wasn't yet taking formal offers.
The Yamamoto sweepstakes have included Mets owner Steve Cohen making a trip to Japan, internet sleuths scrutinizing the pitcher's private jet selfie, and a Bryce Harper sales pitch via FaceTime. Yamamoto's courtship has made for quality baseball offseason entertainment, but it would be a little less entertaining for Red Sox fans if he puts pen to paper with the Evil Empire in the Bronx.
Yamamoto's free-agency decision has larger ramifications for Boston. The team has a clear need to upgrade their rotation, and are likely waiting for the Yamamoto domino to fall before they make decisions on other pitchers to fill out their rotation. Furthermore, some pitchers may be waiting for the details of Yamamoto's contract to establish their asking price. It might be shrewd on the Red Sox' part to get an honest read from Yamamoto's camp and attempt to beat other teams to Blake Snell or Jordan Montgomery if they are in fact out of the running.
Yamamoto's 45-day window to sign with an MLB team expires at 5 p.m. ET on Jan. 4, so he can't keep the Red Sox and others waiting forever. Once the Yamamoto domino falls, Craig Breslow and crew better start moving quickly.
In other Red Sox news: