With several teams determined to upgrade their starting pitching, reports from MLB's Winter Meetings on Monday indicated fierce competition to sign star Japanese right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto.
The Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants are among more than 10 teams said to be pursuing Yamamoto, who won both Pacific League MVP and the Sawamura Award for Japan's top pitcher for the third season in a row this year.
The 25-year-old is one of the youngest free agents on the market and could land a contract in excess of $300 million this offseason, according to MLB.com. Major league teams have a deadline of 5 p.m. EST on Jan. 4 to sign Yamamoto following his posting by the Orix Buffaloes
Red Sox chief baseball officer Craig Breslow said the club was "actively engaged" in both the trade and free agent market for starting pitching, without naming Yamamoto.
"I've been pretty outspoken, pretty vocal about the need for us to improve starting pitching," Breslow told MLB Network.
"I think we have to pursue both of those markets in parallel," he added. "The one thing that I can pretty confidently say is that controllable starting pitching is a premium."
The New York Mets, home to Japanese starter Kodai Senga, are another club believed to be in the hunt for Yamamoto, as well as fellow Japanese free agent Shota Imanaga, posted by the DeNA BayStars.
"You can never have enough pitching, right?" Mets manager Carlos Mendoza said. "To get through 162-plus (games), you're going to need the depth, and we'll see where it ends up."
The San Francisco Giants, who are reportedly trying to sign two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani, have also been picking up steam in their pursuit of Yamamoto, according to multiple U.S. outlets.
USA Today, meanwhile, has reported that the Yankees have made Yamamoto their No. 1 target this offseason and are prepared to spend big to secure his signature.