Chicago Cubs “Very Aggressive” on Yoshinobu Yamamoto?

We have known for quite some time that the Chicago Cubs would be interested in 25-year-old Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto. The Cubs have scouted him like other interested teams, they’ve been reported to have interest, and there’s also just kind of an on-its-face reality to the Cubs (like most teams) having an interest in a 25-year-old ace who is available for only money.

But what we haven’t known is just how seriously involved the Cubs would be. Most of that is because of the extreme focus on Shohei Ohtani, but it’s also because other clubs – the Dodgers, Giants, Red Sox, Yankees, and Mets, primarily – get almost all of the predictive mentions as the top teams on Yamamoto.

This past week, though, Jeff Passan wrote that the Cubs were actually one of the “favorites” on Yamamoto, and it really got my attention. It was a reminder that the Cubs easily have the money and desire to be right in the middle of this thing, too, depending on Yamamoto’s preference in where he wants to play. Then you had Sahadev Sharma also reminding folks of the Cubs’ clear interest in Yamamoto, even if primarily as a pivot from Ohtani, should they miss out on the latter.

Nobody is going to predict the Cubs to sign Yamamoto based on the available information, but with so many interested teams, it’s almost impossible to predict the obvious winner anyway. The only useful exercise, then, is to determine whether the Cubs are among the teams that are seriously involved.

Still, we haven’t heard any details about an active pursuit on Yamamoto, who’s posting lasts through January 4. Maybe that’s a product of the timing or of the Cubs’ vigilance on secrecy. Or maybe, again, it’s just that Ohtani has been the main focus for now.

Against all that backdrop, I found this from The Athletic’s Jim Bowden to be a little interesting:

We know the Cubs have been “very aggressive” on Shohei Ohtani, but also on Yoshinobu Yamamoto? If true, that’s fun! In the even that the Cubs did miss out on Ohtani, the course of action I’d most want to see (especially after learning how absurdly steep the Padres are keeping the price tag on Juan Soto) is the Cubs making a very serious, very expensive run at Yamamoto. So if the Cubs have already been aggressive in their pursuit, that would seem like a good start.

Instantly, though, I think about where a rumor like this originates. And why. Surely Jed Hoyer isn’t telling Jim Bowden this, nor is anyone in his inner circle. So it would have to come from someone who either is observing the aggressiveness (agents? rival bidders?) or is planting misinformation (which, by the way, could plausibly be the Cubs, themselves (for example, putting pressure on the Rays to pull the trigger on a Tyler Glasnow trade?)). I can’t answer for sure where this comes from, but it’s always useful to perform the exercise and think through the incentives.

Ultimately, we have very little idea what’s actually going on behind the scenes in each of the Yamamoto and Ohtani cases. The players and agents seem to want it that way, and the Cubs always want it that way. We’ll see if we get more specifics this week at the Winter Meetings, or maybe even a decision from one or both players.

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Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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