Shohei Ohtani isn’t the only Japanese star who is on the open market this offseason. Pitching phenom Yoshinobu Yamamoto was recently posted, meaning the 30 MLB teams have six weeks to negotiate with Yamamoto, who must sign with a team before Jan. 5. The New York Yankees are among the favorites for the 25-year-old and are pulling out all the stops to secure his signature.
The Yankees are apparently holding the No. 18 for Yamamoto in hopes that issuing him the number will help persuade him to play in pinstripes, according to Andy Martino. Yamamoto wears that number in Nippon Professional Baseball and wore 18 with Japan in the World Baseball Classic earlier this year.
The last Yankees pitcher to wear No. 18 was Hiroki Kuroda in 2014, the same year Masahiro Tanaka signed with New York. Tanaka opted to wear No. 19 after rocking one digit smaller on his back in Japan. He's since returned to 18 after going back to play in his native country.
Yamamoto is expected to start meeting with teams next week via video call, then travel back to the United States after the MLB Winter Meetings to meet with some in person. Though he's reportedly in no rush to sign, there will certainly be an opportunity for him to narrow down his suitors and choose some finalists.
Yoshinobu Yamamoto would be an instant star with the Yankees. He is a three-time reigning MVP and pitcher of the year in Japan, having posted a 50-16 record with a 1.42 ERA across the last three seasons. He averaged 195 strikeouts and 185 innings per year during that span.
If that translates to the MLB, the league will have a new superstar on its hands.