The Yankees have been saving Yoshinobu Yamamoto's favorite uniform number for him

What’s in a uniform number?

In the case of the New York Yankees and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, it’s a small but potentially meaningful part of a courtship.

According to league sources, the Yanks have purposefully held the number 18 for Yamamoto over the past year. That is not only Yamamoto’s number with the Orix Buffaloes, but is traditionally considered the "ace" number in Japan.

Hiroki Kuroda, a onetime NPB ace, wore 18 with the Yankees. Masahiro Tanaka wore number 18 as an ace for the NPB’s Rakuten Golden Eagles before signing with the Yankees, but took 19 in New York out of respect for Kuroda, who was still on the team.

The Yankees intentionally did not give out 18 last season as they were regularly scouting Yamamoto in Japan. Andrew Benintendi wore it in New York in 2022.

Yamamoto will take in-person meetings with MLB teams after the winter meetings, as SNY reported over the weekend. Three of the other teams linked to him -- the Dodgers, Giants and Red Sox -- have 18 available, but did not hold it out last year like the Yankees did (Darin Ruf and Paul DeJong wore 18 for San Francisco, Shelby Miller for the Dodgers, and Adam Duvall for Boston).

For the Mets, Nick Plummer last wore 18 in in 2022, but the team is retiring it next year for Darryl Strawberry.