The decision is in, and the best pitcher on the market is officially a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Yoshinobu Yamamoto is following Shohei Ohtani’s path to Chavez Ravine on a 12-year, $325 million deal, putting a cap on a whirlwind week-plus bidding war featuring just about every big-market behemoth in the league — the Yankees, Mets, Giants, Red Sox and Blue Jays were all rumored to be making a run at the 25-year-old righty.
But the news will particularly sting for Yankees fans. In the days since Yamamoto wrapped up his in-person visits, pretty much all available reporting indicated that New York and Los Angeles were neck and neck, with some even suggesting that the Bombers were in the lead for the pitcher’s services. In the end, though, Yamamoto is a Dodger — and it’s possible that a little bit of money made the difference. Per SNY’s Andy Martino, the Yankees weren’t willing to match the total value of the Dodgers’ offer, instead maxing out at $300 million.
Sources: The Mets offered $325 million to Yamamoto. The Yankees offered $300 MM— Andy Martino (@martinonyc) December 22, 2023
Yes, the average value of New York’s offer is greater than L.A.’s, and yes, there’s no way to know whether money was the determining factor in Yamamoto’s decision — he could have had his heart set on playing with Ohtani on the West Coast all along, and no reasonable amount of money would have swayed him. But this is still a really bad look for Hal Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman and the rest of the Yankees’ braintrust, especially after a season in which their commitment to snapping New York’s World Series drought was openly and repeatedly called into question.
Steinbrenner has long lived in the shadow cast by his late father George, notorious for never letting his team get outbid for any player it wanted to sign. That shadow got even longer in recent years, as the Yankees missed out on several star players under Hal’s watch — from Manny Machado to Bryce Harper to Ohtani the first time around — while publicly fretting about getting their payroll back under the luxury tax threshold. (If a New Yorker has to hear the words “Plan 189” again they might jump off the George Washington Bridge.) Landing Gerrit Cole and Carlos Rodon in recent years, as well as re-signing Aaron Judge, earned a bit of good will, but things bottomed out amid an 82-80 finish in 2023 — the team’s worst season in nearly 30 years.
All of which set the stage for this offseason, one more chance for the younger Steinbrenner and Cashman to prove emphatically that the Yankees hadn’t gone soft, that they were still the Evil Empire of old. Acquiring Juan Soto was a great first step, but he’s set to hit free agency this time next year — and the fact that the team wasn’t willing to match the Dodgers, a team who’s already given out a record $700 million deal to Ohtani this offseason, isn’t inspiring a ton of confience about their odds of keeping him in the Bronx for the long haul. Maybe that extra $25 million will be instrumental in signing Soto next year; maybe Cashman has done enough to get New York back to the postseason in 2024. Right now, though, missing out on Yamamoto while not even being the high bidder sure makes it seem like more of the same.