Yankees could target a 3-for-1 pitching special as Yamamoto pivot

mlb: colorado rockies at san diego padres, blake snell, yankees
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The Los Angeles Dodgers secured the signature of Yoshinobu Yamamoto on a 12-year, $325-million-dollar deal. The contract has multiple outs in it in case Yamamoto wants to go in a different direction and sign another long-term contract in the future. Given he’s only 25 years old, he has the luxury of time on his side, but he put the New York Yankees in a peculiar spot.

The Yankees aren’t normally on the losing side of these big free-agent competitions, but they now have to pivot toward alternative options. The Yankees were unwilling to go above $300 million for a pitcher who had never tossed an inning in the MLB, so they could target a two-for-one special, combining multiple free agents for the price of one.

Over the next few weeks, you will likely hear names like Jordan Montgomery, Corbin Burnes, Dylan Cease, Shane Bieber, and Blake Snell. Only Montgomery and Snell are free agents, so they would have to spend more farm assets to acquire major league-level pitching via trade.

However, there are some high-quality bullpen pieces on the market as well, notably Jordan Hicks and Josh Hader. The Yankees could look to pair one of the top bullpen pieces with a starting pitcher if not two.

The Yankees Could Target a 3-For-1 Special

General manager Brian Cashman could look into a combination like Snell/Montgomery, Frankie Montas, and Hicks. That group of players would come in at a cheaper price point and offer quality contributions on opening day in 2024. Of course, Montgomery is a familiar face who tossed 188.2 innings last season, a career-high. He proved his worth during the playoffs, enjoying a 2.0 ERA across 31 innings pitched. However, there is a concern that Montgomery could regress, given his low strikeout rates.

Snell is coming off an elite season of his own, hosting a 2.25 ERA over 180 innings pitched with the Padres. He won the NL Cy Young Award, so maybe the Yankees want to combine the AL and NL winners in Snell and Gerrit Cole.

That being said, Jordan Hicks is an arm Matt Blake would love to have. The 27-year-old routinely hits over 100 mph on his fastball and recorded a 3.29 ERA last season across 65.2 innings. Hicks has special talent, and if he can improve his accuracy, he could become one of the best bullpen arms in baseball.

In addition, bringing back Montas on a one-year deal makes sense. He missed most of the 2023 season due to shoulder surgery, but the 30-year-old is healthy and should be ready to go for opening day. He’s only one year removed from tossing 144.1 innings, posting a 3.18 ERA with the Oakland Athletics across 104.2 innings in total before being moved to the Yankees. In fact, he enjoyed a 3.37 ERA across 187 innings in 2021.

Because Yananoto may have difficulty transitioning in his first year, the Yankees could leverage some proven arms in 2024 to make a serious postseason push. The truth is, the upside of Yamamoto is evident, and the Yankees missed out on a big fish, but for $325 million, they can bring in multiple starting pitchers with proven success and a quality bullpen piece.

Some may argue that’s even better in the short term, but the Japanese international has ace upside in the future and could become one of the best arms in the game. Fortunately for him, he built a few outs in his deal, so if his value rises, he can always try to cash in later on as the market gets more expensive — maybe the Yankees do land him down the road, but their focus should be on young Japenese prospect, Roki Sasaki.

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