The Opener: Yamamoto, Matsui, Pirates

The Opener: Yamamoto, Matsui, Pirates

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As MLB’s offseason continues, here are three things we’ll be keeping an eye on around the baseball world throughout the day today:

1. Will Yamamoto get $300MM?

The top free agent remaining at this point in the offseason is right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto. The 25-year-old NPB ace has previously been reported as having seven “finalists” for his services: the Dodgers, Yankees, Mets, Giants, Red Sox, Phillies, and Blue Jays. Reporting has since indicated that Philadelphia and Toronto are likely on the periphery of the sweepstakes, while last night rumors surfaced that the Dodgers were considering making an offer to Yamamoto in the $250-300MM range.

An offer even on the smaller end of that range would make Yamamoto’s contract the second-largest in MLB history for a starting pitcher (ignoring two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani) behind only Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, edging out Nationals righty Stephen Strasburg’s $245MM guarantee from the 2019-20 offseason. The bidding process for Yamamoto’s services is expected to continue throughout the week, leaving the door open for other finalists’ offers to reach or even surpass the reported range L.A. is considering.

2. Is a Matsui deal on the horizon?

Yamamoto isn’t the only NPB pitcher getting buzz of late. As of yesterday, the Padres and left-handed reliever Yuki Matsui were reportedly close on a multi-year deal. Matsui, 28, has posted sub-2.00 ERAs out of the bullpen in Japan in each of the past three seasons, with a combined 1.42 ERA and a 36.4% strikeout rate across 152 innings during that time. That show of dominance overseas earned Matsui the No. 43 spot on MLBTR’s annual Top 50 MLB free agents list. The Cardinals, Red Sox and Cubs are among the teams that have been connected to Matsui this offseason outside of San Diego, though with a deal seemingly on the verge of coming together, those teams may be forced to look elsewhere for bullpen help going forward.

3. Pirates facing roster crunch:

The Pirates have begun making moves to add to the club in recent days as they look to improve upon a 76-86 season during which the club showed flashes of success but ultimately finished fourth in the NL Central. Two recent moves made to improve the club’s standing were the addition of left-hander Martin Perez to the rotation and the club’s reported reunion with veteran DH Andrew McCutchen, who will don on a Pirates uniform for an 11th season in his 16-year MLB career. Before either deal can become official, however, the Pirates must clear space on their 40-man roster, which is currently full even without Perez and McCutchen having officially signed. Pittsburgh could look to make a minor trade or two in the coming days to clear space on the roster for their recent signings, or simply designate two players on the 40-man roster for assignment to make room.

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