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Around the Empire: Yankees news - 12/18/23

Yankees hold second meeting with Yoshinobu Yamamoto amid interest, offers from other clubs; Yamamoto contract could break Gerrit Cole’s record for starting pitcher; Bombers maintain interest in Cody Bellinger, Dylan Cease.

World Baseball Classic Semifinals: Mexico v Japan Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

SNY | Andy Martino: We’ve received numerous updates on Yoshinobu’s free agency over the last 48 hours as it appears the sweepstakes to land the NPB ace is entering the endgame. Martino relays that the Yankees are “cautiously optimistic” about their chances to sign the 25-year-old, though they will face stiff competition with at least a half-dozen teams pushing for the best starting pitcher on the free agent market. The Mets have apparently forced themselves into the conversation given Steve Cohen’s immense wealth, with Yamamoto attending a dinner at the Mets owner’s private residence. In response, the Yankees “hastily arranged” a second meeting with the pitcher to reaffirm their commitment to getting him in pinstripes, a meeting which has since been confirmed as requested by Yamamoto himself.

NJ Advance Media | Max Goodman: It’s no wonder the Yankees are pushing hard to sign the Eiji Sawamura Award winner in each of the last three seasons (NPB’s Cy Young Award equivalent) given the way the rotation collapsed behind Gerrit Cole last year. If their pursuit is genuine, they must be prepared to shell out top dollar, and perhaps even a record contract for a free agent starting pitcher. That’s because recent reports suggest both the Giants and Red Sox have tendered offers in excess of $300 million, and a bidding war could easily push his eventual contract beyond the nine-year, $324 million deal Gerrit Cole signed with the Yankees. At just 25-years-old, Yamamoto would have 5-6 more years in his prime than the other names at the top of the free agent starting pitching market which is the primary factor pushing his cost near if not beyond record levels.

MLB.com | Will Leitch: Despite adding Juan Soto, Trent Grisham, and Alex Verdugo via trade, the Yankees are still rumored to be in on Cody Bellinger. Leitch ranks the Bombers as the second-most likely landing spot for the former MVP, placing the Blue Jays at the top of his list of suitors. Toronto missed out on both the Soto and Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes, leaving Bellinger as perhaps the best remaining option to upgrade their offense. Leitch believes the Yankees still make sense as a fit given Soto and Verdugo arrive on expiring contracts, plus Bellinger would save Aaron Judge from having to play center field.

Yahoo! Sports | Ryan Taylor: Only one team gets to sign Yamamoto, which will leave all the other spurned suitors with one less option to reinforce their rotations. It’s therefore no surprise that some of the best starters with existing contracts have seen their names floated in trade rumors, including Corbin Burnes, Shane Bieber, and Dylan Cease. Cease is the name generating the most buzz at the moment, with Ken Rosenthal reporting that the Yankees have joined the Orioles, Reds, Giants, Braves, and Rangers as teams scouting the 27-year-old. White Sox general manager Chris Getz claimed that his team would be “pulling back” on including Cease in trade discussions, though this is likely a tactic to drive up his price as the team waits for Yamamoto to sign to increase the demand in the starting pitching market. It’s rumored that the asking price for the 2022 Cy Young runner-up was four of the Reds’ top-11 prospects during discussions between brass for Chicago and Cincinnati at the Winter Meetings.