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Cubs are ‘among favorites' for Yoshinobu Yamamoto: report

Jeff Passan reports the Cubs are in the mix for the Japanese pitcher

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This offseason poises to be a busy one for the Chicago Cubs.

Seen as heavy pursuers in now two-time AL MVP Shohei Ohtani, they're also interested in another Japanese star --- right-handed pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto.

"The 25-year-old right-hander will decide among a who's who of teams interested in him: The Yankees, Mets, Dodgers, Red Sox and Cubs are among the favorites, with the Giants, Blue Jays and Phillies also expected to be in the mix," ESPN's Jeff Passan reported.

Yamamoto, 25, is one of the hottest commodities on the MLB free agency market this offseason. He's pitched in Japan on the Forgein level and in the Nippon Professional Baseball league. All-encompassed, he holds a 1.72 ERA over nearly 1,000 innings pitched.

He turned heads during the World Baseball Classic, proving to be one of the best pitchers in the tournament. With tournament champion Team Japan, he pitched 7.1 innings and held a 2.45 ERA. He struck out 12 batters and allowed a blistering .160 batting average to his opponents, putting himself among the league's best.

The Cubs starting rotation needs assistance. That's part of the reason they're heavy in the Ohtani sweepstakes, despite Ohtani being unable to pitch during the 2024 season because of a UCL tear he suffered last August.

Without Marcus Stroman in the lineup, the Cubs are currently dependent on Justin Steele, Jameson Taillon, Kyle Hendricks, Javier Assad and Jordan Wicks. Should they bring in Yamamoto, they will instantly boost their rotation.

The Cubs' interest in Yamamoto, as is with any other free agent, is likely dependent on whether or not they land Ohtani. That contract will call for well north of $500 million, and maybe even up to $600 million. It will certainly finish as the highest in MLB history.

What about Yamamoto?

"The price for Yamamoto, officials who plan on pursuing the pitcher told ESPN, seems to be growing by the day. Multiple executives said the floor will be $200 million. Others said the cost of his contract could be in excess of $250 million," Passan reported.

The likelihood of the Cubs signing both Japanese stars seems wildly unlikely. But, if another team lands Ohtani, it would make sense for the Cubs to strongly pursue Yamamoto.

On the subject of Ohtani, Passan also reported the Cubs are firmly in the running for the two-time AL MVP.

"The Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox and New York Mets, who were among the initial group of suitors, have turned their attention to other players, sources said," Passan said. "Among those confirmed by sources to be still in the bidding: the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, Toronto Blue Jays and Angels. The San Francisco Giants have long had a fondness for Ohtani, though where they stand in these sweepstakes is unknown."

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