The New York Mets have made signing elite Japanese right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto their top priority this offseason. While negotiations are still ongoing, recent reports indicate the Mets are feeling “cautiously optimistic” about their chances of landing the superstar free agent.
Mets Emerge as Front-Runners
Yamamoto, nicknamed the “Japanese Maddux” for his precision and dominance on the mound, posted a 1.63 ERA for the Tokyo Giants last season with 276 strikeouts in 212 innings. The 24-year-old officially became available to MLB teams on December 2nd and instantly became the most sought after arm in this year’s free agent class.
The Mets aggressively pursued Yamamoto from the start and have separated themselves from the pack based on the strength of their pitch and contract offer according to league sources.
“New York has really put together an impressive case for why Yamamoto should choose them,” said one MLB executive familiar with the negotiations. “It’s clear they have made this a priority and they keep improving their chances with tweaks to the offer.” Source
Their main competition, the Los Angeles Dodgers who many predicted would land Yamamoto, are now viewed as a long-shot according to MLB Network Insider Jon Morosi.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 13, 2023
Contract Details Emerging
Yamamoto is expected to command a contract worth over $100 million given his youth, impeccable track record in Nippon Professional Baseball, and the demand for premium starting pitching across MLB.
The Mets’ current offer is rumored to be in the range of 5-6 years for $120-130 million. While less than the record 7-year, $155 million deal the Texas Rangers gave Kohei Arihara two years ago, it would still be the second-highest contract ever for a Japanese player transitioning to the majors.
Mets Make Convincing Pitch
The Mets have focused their pitch around providing the resources and environment for Yamamoto to thrive right away in the major leagues.
Chance to win now – Coming off a 101-win season, the Mets emphasized their status as World Series contenders and Yamamoto’s potential role as a critical rotation piece.
Top facilities/coaches – They highlighted the talent on their coaching staff such as pitching coach Jeremy Hefner and the state-of-the-art training facilities at Citi Field to help Yamamoto’s transition.
NYC spotlight – Signing with the Mets would make Yamamoto a superstar in the biggest market which could help grow his global brand.
Family accommodations – Reports indicate the Mets even provided details on Japanese-friendly accommodations to appeal to Yamamoto’s family joining him in New York.
So far these efforts have the Mets feeling increasingly positive about their position. Team president Sandy Alderson said “We feel we have made a very strong case and put our best foot forward with an outstanding offer.”
Snell Rumors Add Leverage
Even with momentum moving in their direction, the Mets also have a backup plan to pivot to former Cy Young winner Blake Snell if they miss out on Yamamoto. Reports surfaced this week about the Mets interest in the 30-year old Snell who has a career 3.71 ERA.
Adding a big name like Snell would be an impressive consolation prize. However, the rumors also serve to put additional pressure on Yamamoto during negotiations. The chance to join deGrom and Scherzer atop the Mets rotation is likely more enticing to the Japanese sensation than being part of a rotation helmed by Snell.
This leverage play by New York’s front office could tip the scales further in their favor at the critical juncture.
Cautious Excitement Building
The Mets entered the Winter Meetings this week with Yamamoto clearly in their sights. After methodically laying the groundwork and improving their offer, the finish line may soon be in sight.
Caution remains imperative as negotiations continue with agent Scott Boras. But the optimism around the organization continues to grow.
Stay tuned as the Mets appear closer than ever to signing Yoshinobu Yamamoto in what would be the crown jewel of an already immensely successful offseason.
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