If the Yankees go after and sign Shota Imanaga, they shouldn’t stop there

Baseball: World Baseball Classic - Championship-Japan vs USA
Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports

The dust has officially settled after the New York Yankees missed on their top pitching target of the offseason in Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Yamamoto was announced by the Dodgers yesterday afternoon. While the Yankees were thought to be the favorite throughout, Yamamoto made it clear that his preference was to be in LA even if they didn’t sign Shohei Ohtani as well.

Brian Cashman and company have had a week now to regroup and figure out next steps. One of the next steps could be another Japanese pitcher in Shota Imanaga. Imanaga started the WBC finals against the USA and pitched very well throughout the WBC. Imanaga had a very solid year in the NPB pitching to a 2.66 ERA. There’s a lot to like about Imanaga.

One thing about him is he’s a strike thrower. If the Yankees were to sign him, they’d sign a guy who would rank near the bottom of the league in terms of walks allowed. He has very good stuff and a fastball that’s deceptively good. Now, the home runs allowed is something to be slightly concerned about. He’ll need to keep the ball in the park especially pitching in New York.

That said, it’s worth noting that Imanaga would come in as a middle of the rotation kind of arm. The Yankees wouldn’t be signing him to be that co-ace like Yamamoto was supposed to be. Because of that, the price tag is likely going to be at least a third of what Yamamoto ended up getting. Considering his success in the NPB, Imanaga could end up being a steal.

In terms of his free agency, he has about two weeks left before his window closes. It’s been reported that he’ll take visits to teams after the New Year. My guess is that you’ll see things really ramp up next week. I don’t know if they’ll sign him, but I expect NYY to be heavily involved if the price doesn’t get out of control.

Yankees should add more

Let’s say the Yanks pull the trigger and ultimately get Imanaga for around $90-$100 million. They shouldn’t stop there if you ask me. Right now, the rotation would consist of Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodon, Shota Imanaga, Nestor Cortes, and Clarke Schmidt. That spells problems if you ask me.

I’m higher than most on Imanaga in terms of the fit with the Yankees, but any pitcher coming over from Japan is going to have question marks. He’s not used to the workload required of MLB pitchers and will have to adjust to the ball, mound, etc. Rodon and Cortes couldn’t stay healthy at all last year and Clarke Schmidt wasn’t sensational.

Because of all those reasons, I think the Yankees should target another solid starting pitcher and I’m not talking about Frankie Montas. I think if they were to acquire a guy like Corbin Burnes, Frankie Montas would make more sense. However, if Imanaga ends up being the play, I think they need someone a little more solid.

With that, guys like Cortes and Schmidt made their way into trade conversations. I wouldn’t mind at all going after a guy like Shane Bieber from Cleveland or calling up Miami about Jesus Luzardo or Edward Cabrera. A guy like Mitch Keller from Pittsburg could also be a name to watch for the Yankees.

A lot is going to hinge on what the Yanks ultimately do first. If they make a huge splash like a Corbin Burnes or Dylan Cease, I would expect the next move to be a reunion with Frankie Montas. However, if it’s more a guy like Shota Imanaga, I expect another solid starter with consistency over a reunion with Montas.