There are plenty of aces on the market this winter, from Aaron Nola and Blake Snell to Jordan Montgomery and Marcus Stroman, but the best of the bunch may not have even landed in the States yet. 25-year-old Japanese phenom Yoshinobu Yamamoto is set to be posted this winter, immediately vaulting toward the top of available free agents — and given his age and track record, just about everyone figures to be in on him. Yamamoto’s NPB track record is impeccable, with five All-Star nods and three ERA titles to his name, and he has the sort of wipeout stuff that has scouts salivating about how he’ll translate to the Majors. But where might he end up? We break down the five best fits.
Yoshinobu Yamamoto free agent landing spots
5. San Francisco Giants
The Giants’ primary needs are on the offensive side, but no team can ever have enough pitching — especially not San Francisco, who could use someone to pair alongside Logan Webb now that Alex Cobb will miss the start of next season with a hip injury. Plus, more broadly, this team just needs juice, a splash that will engender some good will and convince this fan base that Farhan Zaidi and Co. aren’t content to be mired in mediocrity. Yoshinobu would certainly be that, and the Giants could offer him a big market on the West Coast.
4. Philadelphia Phillies
Dave Dombrowski, on the other hand, needs no excuse to make a splash, especially when he’s in win-now mode. Stalwart righty Aaron Nola is a free agent, and if the Phillies opt to let him walk given his age and declining strikeout numbers, Yamamoto would be one heck of a replacement. Even if Nola does come back, you could argue that the Japanese righty makes sense, as there are some questions about the back-end of this rotation beyond Zack Wheeler.
3. New York Yankees
Early reports indicate that the Yankees are very much in on the high end of the starting pitcher market, and Yamamoto appears to be on the top of their wish list thanks to his relatively young age and ace upside. Brian Cashman also has tons of work to do on the offensive side, but after a disappointing 2023, he should be looking to make as many moves as possible — especially given the injury and performance concerns with Carlos Rodon, Nestor Cortes and really everyone not named Gerrit Cole.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers need pitching, pitching and more pitching this winter, with Clayton Kershaw a free agent, Julio Urias mired in off-field scandal, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin out for most if not all of 2024 and Walker Buehler coming off of Tommy John rehab. Andrew Friedman needs known quantities in front of promising youngsters like Ryan Pepiot and Bobby Miller, and Yamamoto would be just the ticket — while fitting more neatly into L.A.’s preferred profile than older, riskier options like Nola and Snell. The Dodgers’ top priority will likely be signing Shohei Ohtani, but they have more than enough resources to land Yamamoto, as well.
1. New York Mets
It remains to be seen how aggressive David Stearns will be about trying to contend in 2024, but either way, this rotation needs fixing — and nabbing a 25-year-old frontline arm is a great way to do just that both now and in the future. Kodai Senga is about the only surefire asset at the moment (Jose Quintana is solid but comes with age and injury concerns), and Yamamoto would form an excellent one-two that would allow them to kickstart their rebuild and hopefully contend with both Atlanta and Philly. Owner Steve Cohen is nothing if not a willing spender, and given Yamamoto’s promise and the club’s pronounced need, the Mets figure to be highly aggressive on this front.