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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2. Yoshinobu Yamamoto could keep the Braves on pace with the Dodgers

The Atlanta Braves were the No. 1 team in the National League last season, 104-58. The result was another postseason defeat at the hands of the Phillies, who continue to dominate the NL East when the games matter most. If there was one glaring chink in Atlanta's armor, it was their starting pitching. With Kyle Wright and Charlie Morton hurt, the Braves turned to a struggling Bryce Elder in Game 3. The result was a cataclysmic 10-2 loss.

With 2024 on the horizon, the Braves have done little to address their bullpen concerns. The Aaron Bummer trade improves the relief corps, but Atlanta no longer has Kyle Wright. There's no guarantee A.J. Smith-Shawver makes the leap necessary to fill last season's void, and Charlie Morton is 40 years old. Maybe Bryce Elder returns to All-Star form, but the wall he hit last season shouldn't inspire any confidence.

The Braves need another starter. There have been trade ideas tossed around, from Chicago's Dylan Cease to Cleveland's Shane Bieber. But there isn't a single better option on the market than Yamamoto. The Braves could sell Yamamoto on a recent World Series victory and the most explosive offense in MLB history. A compelling pitch, no matter Atlanta's precarious geographic location.

So, why didn't the Braves seriously engage with Yamamoto? We can assume it's because of money. Alex Anthopoulos has always been the kind of savvy financial mind who avoids spending top dollar in free agency. The Braves whiffed on Freddie Freeman, only to land Matt Olson and sign him at a discount. Spencer Strider is a young ace under team control. Max Fried, meanwhile, might not be back for the 2025 season.

The Braves, however, face a stronger threat than ever in the form of Shohei Ohtani's Dodgers out west. If Atlanta wants to keep pace in the National League, improvements on the mound are mandatory. Putting Yamamoto next to Strider — two hard-throwing, 25-year-old aces of opposite handedness — would cement the Braves' competitive status. Alas, Atlanta isn't in the mix.

Oh, what could have been.