Top free agent pitcher could be Yankees’ next long-term ace

Olympics: Baseball-Men Semifinal - JPN-KOR, yankees, yoshinobu yamamoto
Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees are fortunate enough to have a Cy Young award-winning pitcher in Gerrit Cole as their primary ace, but that shouldn’t stop them from investing in the starting rotation and securing the services of an arm that could be truly elite.

It is no secret that general manager Brian Cashman is enamored by international star Yoshinobu Yamamoto, having watched him throw a no-hitter in person. A number of Yankee executives have traveled to Japan to watch his skill set, one that seems to be easily translatable to the MLB. If he follows in the footsteps of Kodai Senga, Yamamoto could be a star sooner rather than later, as he’s only 25 years old and has incredible upside.

The Yankees Need Durability

In fact, an MLB executive compared him to players like Mike Mussina, David Cone, and Tim Hudson, hinting at their durability. Yamamoto has pitched three consecutive seasons with a minimum of 170 innings pitched, including 164 in the JPPL and over 170 innings in all competitions this past season.

From Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci:

“Thinking through some of the better pitch skill types and how they adapted and maintained a high level for a long period of time,” the executive said.

Yamamoto has a good fastball that can reach the upper 90s and a nasty splitter. He has five pitches at his disposal, and given the fact the Yankees have multiple prospects who are older than Yamamoto or far less developed, his potential is massive. He hosted a 1.21 ERA this past campaign, giving up just 22 earned runs and two homers with 169 strikeouts. He has the makeup of a high-strikeout pitcher who can force weak contact.

The transition may have its bumps in the road, but pitching coach Matt Blake has done a tremendous job finding value in far lesser players, so giving him a talent like this would be a match made in heaven.

A $200 Million Question for the Yankees

The question is: Is Cashman willing to spend upwards of $200 million to acquire Yoshinobu? There aren’t many concerns with his game, and they just spent $162 million on a six-year deal for Carlos Rodon.

However, Cashman verbally committed to the idea of adding a starting pitcher, so we know the Yankees will be aggressive somewhere, but if the margin between Yamamoto and Jordan Montgomery, for example, is around $50 million on a deal over five years, Cashman should have the green light to go after the superior option who could turn into a long-term ace.