Losing Out On Yamamoto

Nysportsday wire

It’s the most wonderful time of the year but not for Mets and Yankees fans because Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the coveted 25-year old Japanese righthander is heading west to the Dodgers with a 12-year, $325 million contract. No deferrals, a $50 million signing bonus, the Dodgers are the Evil Empire signing Shohei Ohtani and trading for Tyler Glasnow, a trio that netted more than $1.1 billion added to the Dodgers payroll.

Ohtani was the most coveted free agent and a deferral with a record $700 million contract, another spectacle of headlines. Regardless, the Dodgers are all in and historic contracts are gearing them to win their first full season World Series title since 1988. Their last one came during the 60-game COVID shortened season of 2020.

So the Dodgers have spent upwards of a billion dollars in contracts. They reportedly are not finished and lead the offseason sweepstakes. Remember, though, championships are won on the field. Need I remind you about this past season, 2023, with the Mets, Yankees, and Padres, teams with the three top payrolls in baseball and three teams conspicuous from their absence in the postseason.

Need I remind you? The 82- win NL wild card Arizona Diamondbacks took care of business with a three game sweep over the 100-win Dodgers in the NLDS and a thrilling seventh game against the Phillies on the road in the NLCS. The lower salary tier Diamondbacks, again proving no need to spend, advanced to the World Series.

A Mets and Yankees fan on the Friday before that most wonderful time of the year has no cheer, yet the two teams were runner-ups in their quest to obtain Yamamoto. In New York that is not acceptable, though no fault of owners Hal Steinbrenner and Steve Cohen. They made their pitch and the offers to Yamamoto were comparable.

But the Dodgers won the bid and this tedious and intriguing headline reached a finale. Accept the final verdict and move on, exactly what Steinbrenner and Cohen have done. Contingency plans are in place and have been ongoing because Yamamoto was not a sure thing. This was competitive, but remember this. Yamamoto has not thrown a pitch on a Major League Baseball mound.

His fastball is unique and clocked in the middle 90’s, but his secondary pitches are what awed team executives. The repertoire includes a unique curveball, splitter, and cutter/slider. A good find for any team and why he was so coveted.

Look, the Mets and Yankees can’t be at fault for their efforts, certainly not with their offers and perhaps the lure of pitching for the Dodgers and being alongside Ohtani was a factor in his decision. Regardless, New York was not a loser here as the Mets and Yankees will move on and pursue those other options.

Though the stigma of landing a big time free agent is being questioned, I won’t question the theories or why Yamamoto chose Los Angeles over New York. The Yankees’ trade for Juan Soto in a walk-off contract year leaves every possibility that both teams will be competitive in landing him to a record contract in 2025, but that is a year away. The Mets will spend, just not for 2024 with a different strategy of remaining competitive.

For now, though this appears to be a setback as the Mets and Yankees have that definite need for a starter or two to boost their rotations. And these are the contingency plans that I referred to, give or take a lower tier free agent or via a trade. Either way, I don’t envision another mega contract arriving at either Citi Field or Yankee Stadium before Opening Day.

And by all means this does not mean both teams are cautious or off the market because New York demands a winner. No secret that Cohen and Steinbrenner have the resources to spend and they will.

Baseball is the only sport without a major salary cap and a luxury tax or competitive balance should not be a burden for two of the richest owners in baseball. And the Dodgers luxury tax payroll reportedly is still below the highest threshold at $15 million and matched the Mets offer of $325 million. Yamamoto has made history with the most guaranteed money granted to a pitcher, ahead of the Yankees Gerrit Cole by $1 million, though the ace and AL CY Young Award recipient has that edge in average annual value ($27 million) per year.

Contingency plans here can go many ways, again depending on the Mets strategy of not going into that higher tier and record contracts granted to Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, both seeing other pastures during the July trade deadline. The Yankees have the space to spend, also with the strategy of not landing in that higher tier.

Cohen commented to the New York Post, “We’re going to be thoughtful and not impulsive and thinking about sustainability over the intermediate long-term, but not focused on winning the headlines over the next week.”

And the Mets still seek another potent bat for the lineup, designated hitter a priority or for the outfield. Third base is in the balance with the unexpected injury to Ronny Mauricio that was a minor setback.

Here is a look with Yamamoto off the board: Blake Snell (2.25 ERA), Marcus Stroman (3.95 ERA), Frankie Montas (injured 2023), Jordan Montgomery (3,20 ERA), Brandon Woodruff (2.28 ERA), Shota Imanaga (Japan) (a step down from Yamamoto).

A possible reunion with Montgomery and the Yankees or the Mets signing Snell are all a part of that contingency. Montas is a risk, and Stroman would not be in plans for a Mets reunion after a rough and brief tenure. My sources as with others have noted there was a Plan B.

And I would not rule out right-hander Dylan Cease or Brewers righty Corbin Burnes, all represented with Scott Boras who has good communication with Cohen and the Mets. Burnes of course with Milwaukee ties and David Stearns, head of baseball operations for the Mets. The Mets and Yankees could go that route.

Still on the board, Cody Bellinger, a name associated with the Yankees. And the Mets talk about a reunion with Justin Turner, a one-year deal is possible, though that talk has diminished.

Nevertheless, Yamamoto made his decision. Accept he is not in New York. Also accept that the Mets and Yankees are not out of the free agent market.

It is not too harsh to label the Dodgers as that Evil Empire. This is how it works and you move on. It is that most wonderful time of the year.

Rich Mancuso: X (Formerly Twitter) @ Ring786 Facebook.com Rich Mancuso

About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and BoxingInsider.com, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

Get connected with us on Social Media