Humbug! Phillies weren’t really a finalist for Yamamoto after all

Even with a reportedly "competitive" offer to Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the Phillies were never considered a top contender to sign the Japanese pitcher.

World Baseball Classic Semifinals: Mexico vs. Japan
World Baseball Classic Semifinals: Mexico vs. Japan / Megan Briggs/GettyImages
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While some fans were disappointed when news broke that the Philadelphia Phillies missed out on signing Japanese pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto, it turns out the team might have never truly been in the running. 

Jeff Passan of ESPN broke down the pitcher's 12-year, $325 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers: 

Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Friday that while the club made a 12-year offer to Yamamoto, the team was never a finalist — with the race to sign the Japanese star boiling down to the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers. 

When news initially broke about the Phillies extending an offer, the Phillies were included in a list of seven teams reportedly in the running for the ace's services. Included in the team's pitch was a FaceTime call with two-time National League MVP Bryce Harper when representatives met with Yamamoto in Los Angeles.

Ultimately, the Phillies' offer and Harper's involvement weren't enough to sway Yamamoto to pack his bags and commit to Philadelphia.

The 25-year-old Yamamoto excelled in Nippon Professional Baseball action. In 2023, he put up a 16-6 record, 1.21 ERA, 0.884 WHIP and 169 strikeouts in 164 innings. Overall, across seven NPB seasons, he went 70-29 with a 1.82 ERA and 0.935 WHIP. 

According to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said the team's offer to Yamamoto was "extremely competitive" and “aggressive," noting: "I don't think it had anything to do with anything else; he just preferred to be a Dodger. Ultimately, he was just not a person attuned to coming to Philly."

Since joining the Phillies ahead of the 2021 season, Dombrowski has made it a priority to get the organization more involved with scouting talent from the Far East. The Phillies, who have only had two Japanese players ever on the roster, have never directly signed someone from Nippon Professional Baseball.

“We need to build a better infrastructure in how we approach the Far East,” Dombrowski said, according to Lauber.

Lauber also noted that Los Angeles having its newly signed Japanese star, Shohei Ohtani, available for the team's pitch likely helped to seal the deal with Yamamoto.

With Yamamoto off the table now, the Phillies still have the opportunity to make a play for the 30-year-old Shōta Imanaga — 7-4 record, 2.80 ERA, 1.054 WHIP and 174 punchouts in 148 innings — if they are still looking to pursue a pitcher on the open market and want to tap into the Japanese pitching market. Although some have wondered if that's the right move for the Phillies at this time.

Even without adding to the starting rotation at this point in time, the Phillies are set to head into 2024 with a starting five of Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Ranger Suárez, Taijuan Walker and Cristopher Sánchez.

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