Thrilling News: Yankees Potential Free Agent Target: Yoshinobu Yamamoto…..

After Carlos Rodón, Nestor Cortes, and Luis Severino’s 2023 seasons were hampered by injuries and ineffectiveness

the Yankees are once again in need of starting pitching reinforcements. With so many high-minors pitchers (Drew Thorpe, Will Warren, Clayton Beeter, and Chase Hampton, among others), they may decide to use placeholders on shorter-term contracts as their veterans prepare for comeback seasons and their prospects continue to improve.

Reunions with Severino and Montas could fit the bill, but the Yankees could also conceivably open up their wallets for a reunion with Jordan Montgomery. Though he’ll likely command a nine-figure contract, the left-hander will probably sign for less than what the Yankees gave to Rodón last offseason. Yet, the Bombers are also considered among the top options for another top-of-the-rotation starter who will likely net even more of a premium: Japanese superstar Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Though Yamamoto’s agent called out Brian Cashman for comments about his other client Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees are still considered very interested in the Orix Buffaloes’ ace.

And why wouldn’t they be? The 25-year-old has won the NPB’s Sawamura Award, the league’s Cy Young equivalent, in each of the past three seasons thanks to sub-2.00 ERAs in every one of those years. This year, he notched a career-best 1.21 mark over 164 frames, and he’s shown the potential to shoulder a greater workload in the past, tossing 193.2 and 193 innings in 2021 and ‘22 respectively. Across 897 NPB innings in his career, his ERA (1.82) also comes in below 2.00 and he’s struck out 26.4 percent of the hitters he’s faced while walking just 5.9 percent and suppressing homers — and hits in general — along the way. Simply put, it’s rare enough that a pitcher of Yamamoto’s caliber hits the open market, and it’s rarer still that one does so at such a young age.

Yamamoto has yet to actually be posted by his NPB squad, but he almost certainly will this offseason, and he’s just as likely to command a huge sum. FanGraphs’ Ben Clemens sees him raking in nearly $200 million over seven years, while fans project him for about $20-25 million less over the same timeframe. Either way, he stands to earn more than Rodón did last winter.

While the Rodón contract, the Yankees’ most recent point of comparison, hasn’t looked so great thus far, there’s still plenty of time for a bounceback. More importantly, comparing the two pitchers is apples to oranges. For starters, Yamamoto is much younger; about five and a half years, at this particular moment, or about four and a half at signing. Next, with less mileage on his arm, the right-hander doesn’t come with nearly as many prior injuries. Some have raised concerns about his durability going forward due to his stature — he’s listed at 5-foot-10, shorter than all but two of the 189 pitchers who started at least 10 games this past season — but his deep repertoire and high level of success have tended to outweigh those worries.

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