The Yankees could reinforce starting rotation with elite Japanese pitcher

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Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees face a pivotal off-season, with a focus on overhauling their roster to include more durable and reliable players. General Manager Brian Cashman, despite his lackluster track record in procuring proven MLB talent, is expected to lean into the team’s youth movement for the 2024 season. However, the Yanks are also eyeing a few key free agents, particularly in the starting rotation, given their substantial financial flexibility.

Yankees’ Rotation Woes: Severino, Montas, and More

Luis Severino, a 29-year-old homegrown talent, has had a dismal 2023 season. Boasting a 6.75 ERA, a career-low strikeout rate of 7.80 per nine innings, a 65.1% left-on-base rate, a 40.9% ground ball rate, and a 20.4% HR/FB ratio, Severino has clearly struggled. With just 85.1 innings under his belt this season, his prospects for free agency look grim. The Yankees could opt to cut ties, redirecting the $15 million earmarked for him to other talents.

Joining Severino on the exit ramp could be Frankie Montas, who failed to pitch this year due to shoulder surgery. In 2022, Montas logged a disappointing 39.2 innings with the Yankees, ending with a 6.35 ERA and a 66% left-on-base rate. The Yankees could potentially re-sign him on a budget-friendly contract, but severing ties with past poor investments might be a smarter strategy.

Domingo German, another troubled player, is unlikely to return to the Yankees’ roster due to his placement on the restricted list for alcohol abuse.

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Filling the Starting Rotation Gap

Given the gaps, the Yankees will need to fill at least three starting rotation slots, or potentially two, if Michael King successfully transitions into a full-time rotation role. One intriguing option is 25-year-old Japanese sensation Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who’s expected to be on the market this winter.

A Dip into the International Talent Pool: Yoshinobu Yamamoto

The Yankees have been noticeably absent from international signings lately, but Yamamoto presents an opportunity they can’t ignore. Fans fondly remember Masahiro Tanaka’s consistent performances in New York, and Yamamoto, who has impressed with the Orix Buffaloes in Japan’s Pacific League, could be the next big thing. This season, he has boasted a stellar 1.34 ERA across 134 innings, surrendering only 102 hits, 20 earned runs, and a mere two home runs, all while striking out 137.

Sporting a fastball that averages 94-95 mph and can ramp up to nearly 100 mph, Yamamoto also offers a splitter, cutter, and curveball. His repertoire could significantly fortify the Yankees’ rotation. Moreover, his track record of pitching over 140 innings for three consecutive seasons adds the element of durability that the Yankees desperately need.

A New Strategy Centered on Reliability

The Yankees should now zero in on players who are not just talented but also reliable and durable. Having been plagued by injuries all too often in recent years, the team needs to adopt a new, more dependable strategy going forward. With the likes of Yamamoto potentially entering the fray, the future looks promising for a more resilient Yankees lineup.