3 'surprise teams' that ought to make Yoshinobu Yamamoto an offer

We know the favorites to sign Yoshinobu Yamamoto — Yankees, Mets, Dodgers — but who should shock the world with a major last-second push?

Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Japan
Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Japan / RICHARD A. BROOKS/GettyImages
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Yoshinobu Yamamoto received his first offer from the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday. It would appear the bidding is officially underway, which means we could know the 25-year-old's next team before Christmas.

We all know the favorites. Yamamoto has met with the New York Yankees and the New York Mets twice each. He also was impressed by the Los Angeles Dodgers' pitch, which included appearances from Shohei Ohtani, Mookie Betts, and several star players.

The Boston Red Sox and San Francisco Giants are cited as "engaged" contenders, while the Toronto Blue Jays need a big splash after Ohtani ghosted them. And yes, the Phillies are technically in the mix, too. It won't happen, but an offer is out there. Never say never.

That said, why limit the pool to seven teams? It's probably too late for a "surprise" team to completely blindside the favorites, but Yamamoto is the best pitching free agent in a while. He's a proper ace at 25 years old, potentially ready to sign a contract that tethers him to his next franchise for over a decade. That mixture of youth, talent, and team control is unheard of. Not to mention the global marketing upside.

Here are a few teams that should be in the mix for Yamamoto — or who should have been in the mix earlier, when he was still open to changing the field.

3. It's time for the Orioles to break the bank

Yes, I know — Peter Angelos is never going to spend the money. He famously told the New York Times the Baltimore Orioles would be "financially underwater" if too many nine-figure deals were handed out. Baltimore never surpasses $100 million in annual payroll, and it appears the team will continue that trend in 2024.

That sucks. It's not how you win important baseball games. Baltimore won 101 games last season, surging to the top of the AL East standings and earning the No. 1 seed in the American League... only to get swept out of the ALDS by the Texas Rangers. The reason Baltimore couldn't hang? Mostly pitching. The Orioles didn't have a reliable set of starting arms, and the Rangers' explosive offense took advantage.

The Orioles, on paper, need Yamamoto the most of perhaps any team. He could cement Baltimore as a contender for years to come. The Orioles are a young group, blessed with the best farm system in baseball and several upstart hitters who could ascend to new heights in 2024. The trajectory is pointing straight up, and Yamamoto would give Baltimore a proper No. 1 starter to carry the bullpen for the next decade.

It's simply never going to happen, though. And that sucks. We can dare to dream in these parts. The Orioles are on the precipice of greatness, and one has to imagine the right spirit from the front office, combined with a significant financial offer, could at least get him to consider Baltimore. Maybe one day the team will break free from Angelos' cheapskate death grip, but not today.