Mets eyeing star Japanese pitcher as a key rotation piece

olympics: baseball-men semifinal - jpn-kor, yoshinobu yamamoto, mets, yankees
Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

With the Mets‘ rotation likely to take a considerable hit come the August 1st trade deadline, the blue and orange will undoubtedly have to add to their rotation this coming offseason.

Even if Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander stay in Queens past August 1st, there will be a hole in the rotation next season, with Carlos Carrasco set to become an unrestricted free agent.

The likes of Julio Urias, Blake Snell, and Shohei Ohtani will likely be available on the open market, but what if the Mets went overseas for the second straight season to sign a Japanese pitcher?

The Mets are taking a look at Yoshinobu Yamamoto.

According to SNY, New York Mets general manager Billy Eppler traveled to Japan earlier this year to watch the Orix Buffaloes’ 24-year-old ace, Yoshinobu Yamamoto. The Buffaloes are expected to make the righty available via the posting system for MLB teams this winter.

Yamamoto has pitched 101.1 innings across 14 starts to a 1.61 ERA and has struck out 110. In addition, the 24-year-old is a four-time all-star, two-time Eiji Sawamura Award winner, the Japanese baseball equivalent of the Cy-Young, and a two-time Pacific League MVP.

With Yamamoto only set to turn 25 next month, he will not be subject to MLB’s international bonus rules and, with him being posted, will be eligible to sign any size contract he wants.

Many teams are expected to be vying for Yamamoto’s services, with eight teams being confirmed to have sent scouts to his most recent start. The Mets, however, have an advantage that other teams do not: Billy Eppler.

The Eppler advantage

Many of the most notable players that have come over from Japan in recent years have had Eppler’s fingerprints on them.

Eppler was the assistant general manager of the Yankees when the blue and white signed Masahiro Tanaka to the largest contract ever for a posted Japanese player.

Then as the general manager of the Angels, he signed Shohei Ohtani, who has blossomed into the face of baseball, before signing Kodai Senga this past offseason as general manager of the Mets.

Eppler’s experience and connections in Japan, combined with the checkbook of Steve Cohen, could be the formula necessary to sign what many expect to be baseball’s next Japanese superstar.