NASHVILLE — On the surface, Brian Cashman’s response was surprising, as the Yankees’ general manager mentioned what he learned from an international scouting trip that included a front-row seat to the Orix Buffaloes’ no-hitter Yoshinobu Yamamoto last September.
“Nothing, to be quite honest,” Cashman said Tuesday at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, as the second day of baseball’s winter meetings arrived.
Cashman then explained: Like many teams, the Yankees have watched Yamamoto so closely for so long that there are no secrets left about the outstanding right-hander. They know what to expect and are convinced that he will be a top-class player wherever he goes.
“It was a really fun experience,” Cashman said. “The fact that he wasn’t a hitter was really amazing. It’s something special, whether you saw it in high school or college or in the professional ranks. It made my trip worthwhile, traveling all this way to see the technical performance, which was, again, Really touching.
Now, their mission is to bring Yamamoto to the Bronx.
“It’s hard to find a 25-year-old player who has had the level of success he has at this stage of his career out there and on the world stage in the World Series. [World Baseball Classic]said manager Aaron Boone.
“Our reports are that this guy is really good, and I think the industry sees it the same way. It looks like there’s going to be a lot of suitors for him. But I feel pretty confident that he’s going to come here and be a really special, first-rounder.”
Amid speculation that Yamamoto could receive a contract exceeding $200 million, plus publishing fees to be paid to his former club, Cashman has been communicating regularly with Yamamoto’s agent, Joel Wolff.
Cashman declined to say whether an in-person meeting with the pitcher has been scheduled, although that appears to be a lock. The organization also plans to tap Hideki Matsui to help with recruiting, adopting the same playbook it used to attract Masahiro Tanaka in 2014.
“We will do whatever we can in our attempts to draft free agents, whatever we feel is beneficial,” Cashman said. “In the end, we will play every necessary card that we think will help us and see where it takes us.”
As the Yankees prepare to write a big check to Yamamoto, they are also hoping to pull off a blockbuster trade for Padres reliever Juan Soto, a double whammy that would undo the lingering disappointment of their weakest season in three decades.
“He’s as good an offensive player as it gets,” Boone said of Soto. “He’s an offensive machine.”
With Soto set to hit free agency after 2024, San Diego requested a massive package headlined by right-handers Michael King and Drew Thorpe. Although Cashman praised King’s contributions, he also noted that “after the year we had, there will be very few castaways.”
If King or Clark Schmidt are among the pieces sent to the Padres in a potential Soto trade, that would increase the importance of adding a pitcher like Yamamoto to complement Gerrit Cole at the front of the rotation. Bounce back years from Carlos Rodon and Nestor Cortes are also at the top of the wish list.
“I’m comfortable with what we have, worst-case scenario,” Cashman said. “But when there’s an opportunity to add more towards the front end, you should probably try to play on that if you can.”
In the market
The Yankees have made contact with representatives of infielder/outfielder Isiah Keener-Faleeva and left-hander Wandy Peralta, both of whom are now free agents.
Kiner-Falefa is attracting interest from multiple teams after hitting .242/.306/.340 (78 OPS+) last season, appearing at seven positions, including pitcher. Cashman said the Yankees hope to retain Peralta, who has posted a 2.83 ERA in 63 games this year.
Cashman said he doesn’t consider third base an area of need, which could quell speculation that has linked the Americans to free agents Jimmer Candelario and Matt Chapman. DJ LeMahieu will likely be the starter at third base, with Cashman saying the club feels “covered” at all positions.
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