Aaron Boone discusses Yankees’ meeting with Yoshinobu Yamamoto

The Yankees Zero in on Yoshihito: Club’s Pursuit of Japanese Ace Gaining Steam

NEW YORK — Aaron Boone got a glimpse of just how much Yoshinobu Yamamoto craves the bright lights of the big stage during their initial meeting, when the standout pitcher requested a scouting report on the Yankees’ most formidable rivals. “We talked about some different rivalries, what the stadium is like in a playoff environment or for big regular-season games against the Red Sox,” Boone said on Thursday.

There was a palpable spark in Yamamoto upon discussing competition, leaving an impression on the Yankees manager. Yamamoto and his agent, Joel Wolfe, convened with a Yankees contingent comprising Boone, managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, team president Randy Levine, general manager Brian Cashman, and pitching coach Matt Blake on Dec. 11 in the Hollywood Hills.

The alliance was further nurtured on Sunday in Manhattan, with Boone revealing that the Yankees had worked to woo Yamamoto by highlighting the club’s appeal on and off the field. “He’s a special dude,” Boone said. “There’s some presence to him; comfortable in his skin and confident, but a humility to him. It’s just been nice to get to know him in less formal environments, where you can kind of let your hands drop and just have real conversations. It’s been fun to do that.”

The Yankees’ overtures included the involvement of Hideki Matsui, a special advisor to Cashman. Though Matsui was not physically present, he contributed by recording a video message for Yamamoto and sending an autographed jersey. Additionally, the Yankees presented Yamamoto with a pinstriped No. 18 jersey, his preferred number.

Boone was effusive in his praise of Yamamoto, stating, “I gave him that jersey. It’s his if he wants to keep it.” The manager further noted that Yamamoto’s dedication to greatness was a significant takeaway from their recent conversations. Speaking of Yamamoto, Boone said, “He’s been looking forward to this. He’s a guy that you can certainly see is very invested in his craft. There’s some similarities between him and Gerrit [Cole] in how dedicated and disciplined and all-in they are on pitching, baseball, their body and how to be successful. Different personalities, different people, but that obsession with their craft came across.”

It’s easy to see why interest in Yamamoto is high, as the 25-year-old right-hander, a three-time Sawamura Award winner in Japan, is viewed as one of the top free-agent pitchers available. The Dodgers, Giants, Mets, Phillies, and Red Sox are among the other clubs vying for his services. The Yankees maintain their pursuit, with Boone acknowledging the urgency of the ongoing negotiations. “We’ll see how it goes,” Boone said. “I know all the teams are now putting their best foot forward and negotiating. That’s above my pay grade, so we’ll see where it lands.” As the Jan. 4 signing deadline looms, the drama surrounding Yamamoto’s decision is certain to captivate and tantalize baseball enthusiasts.


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