Insider: Frontrunner Emerges For Top Free Agent Pitcher Yamamoto

Japanese pitching phenom Yoshinobu Yamamoto is the most coveted free agent not named Shohei Ohtani. And despite about a third of MLB teams being in pursuit of the incoming pitching star, it appears that a frontrunner has emerged in the New York Mets.

"I think Yamamoto wants to get paid," said Insider Jeff Passan on the Pat McAfee Show today. "(Mets Owner) Steve Cohen flew all the way to Japan to see him, private jet all the way to the other side of the world. If he is willing to do that, I think that says a lot about how he feels about Yamamoto."

"Talking to his people, they're taking the Mets' candidacy seriously," added Andy Martino.

Passan adds that the Mets don't intend to let Yamamoto slip through their fingers: "They didn't get (Juan) Soto, they are not going to get (Shohei) Ohtani...they want Yamamoto pretty badly."

Fellow Insider, former GM and MLB Network's Jim Bowden says it could come down to a slug-it-out battle between the two New York teams. He says that Yamamoto was a big fan of Hideki Matsui growing up, and that could give the Yankees a very real shot at him, if they're able to match Steve Cohen's money. 

Yamamoto has a career 1.82 ERA in seven seasons in the NPB in Japan, along with three MVPs and three of their Cy Young-equivalent awards. 

This should be the most interesting sweepstakes to watch, once Ohtani has made his choice.

Photo: Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports