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: Why aren't the Cubs in the mix?

The Chicago Cubs were among the teams initially tied to Yoshinobu Yamamoto, but similar to the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes, Chicago was swiftly excised from the group of expected contenders. We can't close the book until the final bell sounds, but the Cubs are — at best — polling eighth in the Yamamoto pursuit. He's not going to the Cubs.

Why is that exactly? It would be one thing if the Cubs simply lost to the Yankees or Mets on organizational merit. But why hasn't Jed Hoyer been on the phone with Yamamoto at every possible turn, trying to sell him on the competitive vision in Chicago, at historic Wrigley Field?

As MLB.com's Andrew Simon notes, the Cubs need Yamamoto more than most clubs.

"But while Chicago may no longer be as realistic a landing spot for Yamamoto as other cities, he still stands out as a strong fit for a club looking to find its way back to the top of a winnable NL Central. Remember, the Cubs are coming off an 83-win season, and may lose two key free agents, Cody Bellinger and Marcus Stroman... Per FanGraphs’ Steamer projections, the Cubs — under new manager Craig Counsell — currently feature one of MLB’s top 60 position players and one of its top 80 pitchers in terms of projected WAR. Its rotation ranks 20th in that regard and lacks a starter with the demonstrated ability to miss bats and pile up K’s."

Basically, the Cubs need a proper ace to lead their rotation. Justin Steele earned his first All-Star berth last season, but he's a talented No. 2, whereas Yamamoto has the potential to lead a postseason-caliber rotation for the next decade. At 25 years old, Yamamoto is significantly younger than your typical free agent starter. He also won the equivalent of three straight Cy Young awards in Japan's NPB, with three straight MVP awards tying the record set by Ichiro. His heat pushes the high-90s and he is known to have a nasty collection of off-speed pitches, including a mesmerizing north-south curveball.

The Cubs have been quiet all offseason. If Bellinger does in fact leave, the offense's outlook will be rather grim. Craig Counsell is a brilliant manager, known for his ability to squeeze every ounce of production out of his bullpen, but he can only get so far if the Cubs don't have the talent necessary to contend. Last season ended with 83 wins, but Chicago runs the risk of regressing — not progressing — with their expensive new head coach. That's not what the front office wants, assuredly, so it's time for Hoyer to get serious.

Chicago should be making every effort to get back into the Yamamoto mix. If that doesn't happen, the Cubs better have a suitable backup plan.

MLB RUMORS. Realistic Yamamoto contract offers for every interested team. Realistic Yamamoto contract offers for every interested team. dark