Yoshinobu Yamamoto Aug 4, 2021; Yokohama, Japan; Team Japan pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto (17) throws a pitch against Korea in a baseball semifinal match during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Yokohama Baseball Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

For a few minutes, it seemed like the Los Angeles Dodgers were closing in on prized Japanese free agent Yoshinobu Yamamoto. As the bidding heats up for the 25-year-old star pitcher, who appears likely to command north of $300 million in free agency, rumors circulated on social media that he would attend the New Orleans Saints-Los Angeles Rams NFL game at SoFi Stadium on Thursday.

Several members of the Los Angeles media, such as Daniel Starkland, Bruce Kuntz, and Jack Harris, reported on Thursday afternoon that Yamamoto was on the guest list for Thursday night’s Saints-Rams game, and it was expected that he would be present alongside Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani signed a 10-year, $700 million deal with the Dodgers earlier in December.

Harris, the Dodgers beat reporter for the Los Angeles Times, confirmed the report and added detail that both Ohtani and Yamamoto were expected to be in the owner’s suite; Stan Kroenke is the owner of the Rams.

It didn’t take long for those reports to be refuted by renowned MLB insiders Ken Rosenthal (The Athletic/Fox) and Jon Heyman (New York Post). Heyman quickly denied the report as “a rumor that’s false,” stating that Yamamoto is not planning to go with Ohtani to the Rams game. At the same time, Rosenthal said that contrary to previous reports, Yamamoto would NOT be at SoFi Stadium. Rosenthal did say that Ohtani might be there, but Yamamoto will not be.

For what it’s worth, Harris said that the Rams were expecting Yamamoto to be there, but the pitcher’s plans seemingly changed. If that’s the case, it could be a perception issue; the Dodgers, perceived as the favorites to land Yamamoto’s services, would appear to have the upper hand if he attended a football game in Los Angeles with Ohtani.

Yamamoto and his agent, Joel Wolfe, have not disclosed much information about their meetings with teams. Any news that has come out about the young player’s discussions with potential suitors has only been reported after the fact. While the Dodgers are rumored to be the front-runners in signing Yamamoto, the New York Mets and Yankees have also expressed interest and are actively pursuing him. Both teams have tried to entice Yamamoto to sign with them. Additionally, the Philadelphia Phillies reportedly made an offer to Yamamoto, while the San Francisco Giants were to be given “every consideration” after they met with the star pitcher.

Ultimately, where the truth lies remains to be seen, but both Heyman and Rosenthal were quick to pour cold water on the “rumor.” Each passing day offers new breadcrumbs of information to the never-ending saga that is the free agency of Yamamoto, the winner of three straight Sawamura Awards, Japan’s equivalent to the Cy Young Award. The 25-year-old pitcher has put up video-game-like numbers during that span, highlighted by a 1.44 ERA.

It’s not surprising that the news of Yamamoto possibly attending a football game in the city of one of the teams interested in signing him would draw attention. However, it’s unclear whether he and his team planned this or if it was just a rumor gaining momentum.

While the Dodgers might still be the favorites to land Yamamoto, the truth about his attendance at the Rams game and ultimate destination remains elusive. With conflicting reports and an agent who keeps his cards close, Yamamoto’s free agency remains a mystery, leaving baseball fans glued to their phones and every rumor taking on a life of its own.

About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.