Yoshinobu Yamamoto rumors: Red Sox still in, battle for NYC, why not Cubs?

  • The Cubs need Yoshinobu Yamamoto more than most teams.
  • The Yankees and Mets engaged in 'bare-knuckled' brawl for Yamamoto
  • Red Sox willing to push beyond comfort zone in Yamamoto bidding

Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Japan
Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Japan / Koji Watanabe/GettyImages
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Yoshinobu Yamamoto rumors: Yankees and Mets engaged in all-out war

The New York Yankees and New York Mets have never engaged in an all-out free agency battle for the same player. As ESPN's Buster Olney notes in his latest column, there has been amiable competition in the past — Mike Mussina, Carlos Beltran — but nothing that has elevated to the "bare-knuckled, big-money brawl" that is currently unfolding.

The Yankees and Mets are going toe-to-toe for the 25-year-old from Bizen. Yamamoto has met with both teams twice — the only teams he has honored with multiple in-person meetings, as far as we know. Mets owner Steve Cohen flew out to Japan to meet Yamamoto on his own turf, then invited the right-hander to dine at his own home. Shortly after his second Mets meeting, Yamamoto requested a second meeting with Brian Cashman and the Yankees' contingent.

Both owners are all-in. One source told Olney, "Hal [Steinbrenner] isfully engaged with this." Cohen is known to have the deepest pockets in baseball, and new Mets GM David Stearns has a lot to gain personally from Yamamoto's decision. Olney makes the comparison to former Mets GM Billy Eppler's ability to lure Shohei Ohtani to the Los Angeles Angels. If Stearns can walk in the door and get the best free agent pitcher to pick the Mets over the more accomplished Yankees, he will earn serious commendation.

"[Yamamoto] is a guy who is all about winning," one front office source told ESPN. "He is all about greatness. He wants to be great and he wants to be a part of something great."

The Yankees maintain a "quiet confidence" that Yamamoto will ultimately don the pinstripes, but there is similar confidence from the Mets that Cohen will ultimately furnish Yamamoto with the most significant offer. There is also "wariness" on both sides about the Dodgers, who have more star power and a clearer path to contention than either New York team can offer — not to mention the highest-profile Japanese superstar of all time in Shohei Ohtani.