Yankees banking on ‘Godzilla’ to help convince Yoshinobu Yamamoto to sign on

mlb: milwaukee brewers at new york yankees, hideki matsui
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Now 49 years old, the New York Yankees have Japanese native Hideki Matsui, aka “Godzilla” on the payroll as a special advisor to the organization. Matsui played his last season in 2012 with the Tampa Bay Rays, well beyond his prime at 38 years old. However, he was one of the Yankees’ best players for years, hosting a career 13.6% strikeout rate, collecting 175 homers, 760 RBIs, and hitting .282 with a .360 OBP.

Now retired for more than a decade, Matsui is expected to help the Yankees land Yoshinobu Yamamoto (per Bryan Hoch of MLB.com), who the team is meeting in Los Angeles on Monday afternoon. Yamamoto is the best free-agent pitcher on the market at 25 years old and is looking to pick his new team.

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The Yankees Have Plenty of Leverage With Yamamoto

Yamamoto reportedly wants the biggest stage and the brightest lights, both of which the Yankees can offer him. With Gerrit Cole only getting older and Yamamoto about to sign a long-term deal, he could eventually take over as the team’s primary ace. Having won the Sawamura Award (the Cy-Young equivalent in Japan) three times and coming off a 16–6 season, Yamamoto profiles as an immediate impact starter. His market is already expected to surpass $250 million but the Bombers sent Hal Steinbrenner to meet Yamamoto in Los Angeles, suggesting they are pulling out all the stops to secure a premium talent.

“I have no doubt about his abilities,” Cashman said. “You’re going to see a lot of people over here trying to win his decision over. It’s a testament to the quality of talent that he is, and what exists over in Japan.”

The hope is that Matsui can use his cultural identity to connect with Yamamoto and help paint a picture of what the Yankees’ organization is all about and the benefits that come with it. Ranging from the best in class services to the international brand that can leverage Yoshinobu’s image, there’s a lot to like about donning the pinstripes, and the money doesn’t hurt either.