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Report: Japanese star Yoshinobu Yamamoto to visit Yankees next week

As speculation continues to swirl around a deal for Juan Soto, Brian Cashman also has his eye on arguably the best pitcher on the market.

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Yoshinobu Yamamoto of Team Japan looks on before the game against Team Republic of Korea during the semifinals of men’s baseball on day twelve of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Yokohama Baseball Stadium on August 04, 2021 in Yokohama, Japan. Photo by Koji Watanabe/Getty Images

As rumors continue to swirl around a deal for Juan Soto, New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman also has his eyes on arguably the best pitcher (non-Shohei Ohtani division) on the market. Per a report from Jon Morosi, the Yankees are set to welcome prized Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto for a visit this coming Monday, Dec. 11:

It’s unclear whether the meeting with Yamamoto will take place in New York or elsewhere, but it’s clear that the righty will be coming to the States this time after Cashman (and several other executives from teams around the league) flew to Japan to watch him pitch late in the 2023 season.

Yamamoto has been among the most sought-after players on the market from the moment his NPB team, the Orix Buffaloes, posted him back in November — officially making him a free agent. For the uninitiated, you can read our full scouting report on him here, but we’ll give you the abridge version: A five-time All-Star and three-time ERA champion, Yamamoto has dominated in Japan for years, taking home the Pacific League’s equivalents of both the MVP and Cy Young Awards this past season. With a mid-90s fastball and a wipeout splitter a la Ohtani and Kodai Senga, he’s got ace-caliber stuff, and he proved as much on the world stage at this year’s World Baseball Classic — striking out 12 and allowing a .160 average against over 7.1 innings of two-run ball while helping Team Japan take home the title.

But perhaps the most enticing thing about Yamamoto is his age: At just 25, he’s several years younger than the other pitchers on the market, from Blake Snell to Jordan Montgomery to Lucas Giolito. That’s worth its weight in gold to MLB teams, and it’s one of the main reasons why everyone from the Yankees to the Dodgers to the Red Sox to the Cubs to the Mets is hot on his trail — and his market could climb as high as $300 million.

Which team has the inside track? It’s tough to say; the Yankees are the first team Yamamoto is known to be meeting with in the States, but Mets owner Steve Cohen reportedly flew to Japan for a sit-down last week. There’s still much that we don’t know about the righty, but several reports suggest he’s intrigued by pitching in a major media market — which would seemingly give both the New York and L.A. teams (and possibly the Cubs) an edge.

If it’s indeed true that Cashman gives up young pitchers Michael King, Drew Thorpe and/or Clarke Schmidt in a Soto deal, that would create an even greater need in the Yankees’ rotation, which is currently full of question marks behind reigning Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole. New York needs much more than an admittedly great bat to get back to the postseason in 2024, and Yamamoto would be a great fish to land.