In the latest humiliation of the San Francisco Giants, the next best free agent on the market, starting pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto — formerly of the Orix Buffaloes of the Nippon Professional Baseball and soon to be either a member of a New York team or the Dodger — has informed our favorite baseball team that they suck and are losers.
The Giants have been told they’re out of the bidding for Yoshinobu Yamamoto, per source familiar with discussions. They pushed hard but expectation is that he will end up in LA or NY.— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) December 22, 2023
Sorry, that was too emotional. Suppose people came here for news? Well, look at the tweet. There’s the news. Alex Pavlovic is as trustworthy as they come and he almost certainly got word from someone within the Giants organization if not someone directly involved in negotiations, so surrender all hope and begin the process of acceptance.
Of course, some people, perhaps a great many, will quickly pivot to Yamamoto being overhyped, not actually that good, citing all the other Japanese pitchers who’ve come to the US to play in MLB. They’ll throw as many psychic tomatoes as they can at him for being spurned because, why not? That’s sports! He rejected our tribe, so down with him!
Yoshinobu was, of course, Farhan Zaidi’s white whale, the free agent he allegedly has wanted the most in his tenure with the Giants. Shohei Ohtani was always a longshot and so this offseason quickly coalesced around Yamamoto or bust — at least for some fans. It was about two and a half months ago that Farhan Zaidi commented that he viewed Yamamoto as one of the top starting pitchers in the world:
“It’s been a pilgrimage over there from front office people to see him,” Zaidi said of Yamamoto. “He’s really one of the top starting pitchers in the world. I know it sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s not. It sounds like a big statement, but yeah, I think both of those guys will attract some interest and we’re just continuing to do our work on them in anticipation of their posting in a couple of months.”
The 25-year old right hander with elite stuff is going to get a contract around $300 million, most likely, and carries with him as much hype as any player as I can ever remember. Given all that, I suppose it makes sense that the Giants were always going to be on the outside looking in; but, can you imagine if they could’ve paired him with Logan Webb at the top of the rotation for the next five years? The division might not have felt so impossible.
BUT! And this is the most important thing to remember about another failed top of the market free agent pursuit: the Giants do serve a key function in the battle between the MLBPA and ownership. They consistently inflate the market for free agents by trying to bid big. Maybe one of these days the few high-spending teams will simply run out of money to give to an A-Tier free agent, leaving the Giants as the team of last resort. We probably won’t be alive when that happens, but that’s why the brain is capable of dreaming. Go to sleep and set your alarm for a decade from now (if he goes to the Dodgers).
For those who think life is only a series of wins and lessons rather than losses, this is just an opportunity for the team to instead throw $300-$400 million at some post-prime thirtysomething year old free agents, a tradition older than Oracle Park. That practice won them three titles in five seasons!
The Giants can still pivot to some other starters on the market, of course, including one of Yamamoto’s countrymen, Shōta Imanaga. They also might not actually have to do much to hang around the third Wild Card chase either, if the preliminary ZiPS projections are right.
It’s another tough week for the Giants in free agency, but the good news is this is nothing new. The Giants have been losers at the top of the market for generations now and rooting for the competition to fail rather than succeed has been standard practice for going on a decade. This doesn’t come as a total shock or even a surprise, but I’ve found that no matter how much I brace myself for the thing I least want to happen, when/if that moment still arrives, it still really bothers me.
Let’s not deny that not only did most of the fanbase want Yamamoto, the team did, too.
IMPORTANT UPDATE (8:57PM):
Japanese star Yoshinobu Yamamoto and the Los Angeles Dodgers are in agreement on an 12-year, $325 million contract, sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 22, 2023
Oh well. Moving on. The MLB draft is July 16th.