The Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets and New York Yankees believed themselves to be the three teams that qualified as finalists for Japanese right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Now that the dust has settled and Yamamoto's been introduced in Dodger Blue, though, that extended bidding war feels like a Joel Wolfe-orchestrated fever dream.
Forget Uncle Steve Cohen's ability to outbid the field. Forget Brian Cashman's years-long scouting mission that involved at least one hands-on trip to Japan. Forget, too, the postscript Wolfe tried to put on the San Francisco Giants' pitch, claiming his client loved the city and felt at home -- but not enough to leave the Dodgers at the altar.
Now, the Dodgers did ultimately come in with the highest bid. It's possible that Wednesday's talk of "fate" and the speculation bubbling in recent weeks was all backfill rather than the driving force. But Yamamoto's camp gave Los Angeles the chance to match Cohen's offer. They largely ignored the Yankees' $300 million front-loaded bid.
And, in the end, it felt as if Yamamoto always intended to join the Dodgers, while Shohei Ohtani's deferred contract allowed both men to link up in LA, rather than forcing one player to pivot. The righty confirmed as much at his press conference Wednesday, claiming he "probably" would've come to Los Angeles anyway, and his choice was in no way dependent on his countryman's megadeal.
Dodgers were always Yoshinobu Yamamoto's No. 1 choice, and Shohei Ohtani was a bonus
What probably happened here involved the Dodgers viewing Yamamoto as a want and Ohtani as a need, clearing their entire offseason deck for the two-way superstar in much the same way the Yankees prioritized the 25-year-old right-hander (LOL, whoopsie). Then, once Ohtani agreed to the Dodgers' offer and pitched a way to defer his pay and spur on further spending, they realized they could pull off a somewhat unprecedented combo and got Yamamoto on board.
Surely, that didn't take much convincing for Yamamoto, who made his intentions plainly clear on Wednesday. The Yankees might've gone above and beyond. The Mets might've wined and dined him. But the Dodgers were always the organization he viewed as home, if all things were equal.
In the end, he made sure all things were equal, consulting Los Angeles' braintrust on Cohen's mega-bid. Andrew Friedman, emboldened by Ohtani's gracious gesture, was able to get slightly uncomfortable to import yet another star-level player who'd very much already bought into what the organization had to offer.
2024 will be a pressure-filled campaign, and the Dodgers aren't done. But Ohtani, Yamamoto, and Tyler Glasnow seem poised to embrace the challenge -- because they all opted into it, independent of the others.