The Mets favored to land star Japanese pitcher over winter

Following the trades of Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander at this year’s trade deadline, the Mets have a severe need for starting pitching as they enter the offseason.

While the offseason has yet to begin, it appears the blue and orange are already a favorite to land one of free agency’s most intriguing pitchers.

The Mets favored to sign Yoshinobu Yamamoto

According to a report by John Harper of SNY, multiple rival team executives claim that the Mets are the favorites to sign Yamamoto.

“I’d say they have to be the favorite,” said one rival team executive. “Their GM (Billy Eppler) has a strong history with Japanese pitchers, and signing Senga has worked out well for them. Also, Yamamoto is young enough ( 25 years old ) that he fits what they seem to be doing, replenishing their farm system.”

Another executive parroted those points while adding: “I think it’s all about Yamamoto being young. The guy will be expensive, but I don’t think Steve Cohen is going to stop spending just because it didn’t work with (Max) Scherzer and (Justin) Verlander.”

The Eppler Effect

Eppler has extensive experience when it comes to signing Japanese talent; he was the assistant general manager of the Yankees when the blue and white signed Masahiro Tanaka to the largest contract ever of a posted Japanese player.

Then, as the general manager of the Angels, he signed Shohei Ohtani, who has blossomed into the face of baseball, before signing Kodai Senga this past offseason as general manager of the Mets.

“It’s very apparent that Billy pays attention to the culture of Japan and knows how to interact with Japanese people well,” Senga said when asked about Eppler’s recruiting earlier this season. “I felt that first-handily, and his presentation skills are amazing, so I think that could work in the Mets’ favor.”

This season, Yamamoto has pitched 141 innings across 20 starts to a 1.28 ERA and has struck out 144. In addition, the 25-year-old has quite the track record as he is a four-time all-star, two-time Eiji Sawamura Award winner, the Japanese baseball equivalent of the Cy-Young, and a two-time Pacific League MVP.

Eppler’s experience and connections in Japan, combined with the checkbook of Steve Cohen, makes it clear why the Mets are the current favorites to sign the 25-year-old star.