The New York Yankees are ready to make the most of their last……..

This past week, a group from the Yankees visited with the Japanese ace in Southern California in an effort to court the right-hander. The Yankees’ belief that they will be the team Yamamoto choose seems unbreakable, even though the desired starter has been in talks with other teams all this week.

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The Yankees’ top focus now is strengthening the starting staff, since they acquired three left-handed outfielders, including ace Juan Soto. Yamamoto and Gerrit Cole together would rank among the best one-two punches in the game and be a scary package above a rotation beset by doubts. How much owner Hal Steinbrenner is willing to pay in the pursuit of the gifted 25-year-old is something we are unsure of. The Yankees must act quickly on that choice because Yamamoto’s deadline to select a team is drawing near and the cost of this front-line starter is still rising.

The storyline throughout was that Steve Cohen, the owner of the Mets, would prove to be the Yankees’ greatest threat in this situation. At the Winter Meetings, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman even made a joke about not knowing if anybody could match Cohen’s financial resources if a bidding war broke out. Even after adding Tyler Glasnow to their roster and signing Shohei Ohtani to a record-breaking salary, the Dodgers are still a strong contender in this division. The majority of Ohtani’s $700 million contract has been postponed, putting Los Angeles in a position to match any offer made for Yamamoto.

But in terms of the finances, Steinbrenner and the Yankees face even more competition. According to Jim Bowden of CBS Sports and The Athletic, Yamamoto has received offers of more than $300 million from the Red Sox and Giants on Saturday.

Do you recall the first free-agency estimates that Yamamoto was expected to make this winter, barely beyond $200 million? In November, MLB Trade Rumors claimed that the right-hander from Japan will earn $225 million over the course of nine years. Yamamoto now has a real opportunity to break the record for the largest starting pitcher deal ever signed. Cole will get that title if his contract is worth more than $324 million, which the Yankees offered him for nine years before the 2020 campaign.

An opportunity to sign a 25-year-old ace doesn’t come around very often. Usually top-tier starters don’t hit free agency until 30, if not later — that’s the case for Blake Snell (31), Aaron Nola (30) and Jordan Montgomery (31 next week) this winter. Yamamoto has never thrown a pitch in an MLB game, though. His track record of dominance in Japan suggests that he’ll effectively transition from Nippon Professional Baseball to the big leagues and he has faced MLB hitters before. Are teams ready to give him one of the biggest free-agent deals ever and commit to a decade-long contract? It becomes more of a risk as the cost climbs.

The Yankees are willing to pay a high price for Yamamoto. They’ve shown they mean business this winter by being prepared to part with top prospect Drew Thorpe and starter Michael King in exchange for Soto with the Padres. The goal for Steinbrenner, Cashman, and team is to recover from an 82-80 season. They are as desperate for Yamamoto as they were for Soto. But Steinbrenner is not without limitations.

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