Yankees face major problem after refusing to spend $325 million on Yamamoto

mlb: washington nationals at new york yankees, brian cashman
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Despite weeks of effort to sign Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the New York Yankees lost out on another big-name player to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers have now committed over $1 billion to Shohei Ohtani and Yamamoto this off-season, but they found a sneaky financial loophole to get the job done.

The Dodgers deferred $680 million of Ohtani’s contract until the final year, opening up a substantial amount of money to spend in the near term to help reinforce the team with star-caliber pieces. The Dodgers now have a filthy group of players to work with, and while the Yankees did land Juan Soto, they now have to look in a different direction to solve their pitching issues.

The Yankees Now Hope They Dodged a Massive Commitment

Some are happy that the Yankees refused to give more than $300 million to a pitcher who has never pitched in the MLB before, but at 25 years old and containing a special pitch mix, his upside is elite. The Yankees will have to look in the direction of more proven commodities, which is in a bad pivot, but it may not be as lucrative long-term.

Right off the bat, the Yankees could look to reunite with Jordan Montgomery, a 30-year-old lefty who’s coming off a fantastic season with both the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers. He recorded a collective 3.20 ERA, 7.92 strikeouts per nine, a 75.6% left-on-base rate, and a 43.2% ground ball rate across a career-high 188.2 innings.

Having been traded due to his perceived lack of value in the postseason, the Yankees watched him march through elimination rounds with Texas, proving his worth. Obviously, his stock has likely risen due to Yamamoto’s ridiculous contract, so the Yankees will have to pay. It’s just a matter of how much and how many years.

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Alternatively, general manager Brian Cashman could look in the direction of Blake Snell, a 31-year-old lefty coming off an elite season with the San Diego Padres. Snell has been a good pitcher for many years, putting together back-to-back quality seasons with the Padres. He pitched 180 innings in 2023, enjoying a 2.25 ERA, 11.70 strikeouts per nine, an 86.7% left-on-base rate, and a 44.4% ground ball rate. There are some concerns with Snell’s stamina and ability to push deep into games, but the Yankees simply need a quality arm they can rely on as a primary starter, and he fits well.

The Yankees face a legitimate issue of overspending on older arms since Yamamoto was only 25, and both Montgomery and Snell are above 30. Their quest to get younger certainly took a hit, but there are a few other names to keep an eye on as the Yankees navigate these turbulent waters.

28-year-old Shane Bieber is an option that stands out, hosting a 3.80 ERA last season across 128 innings with the Cleveland Guardians. However, he’s only one year removed from pitching 200 innings in 2022, enjoying a 2.88 ERA and a 75.8% left-on-base rate — unfortunately, the Yankees would have to trade for him, so more prospects would be out the door.

There are quality arms on the market, but the Yankees need to act fast since the entire group was being held up by Yamamoto’s sweepstakes and waiting for the big-money teams to have to pivot elsewhere. We should expect the Yankees, Red Sox, Giants, and Mets to start looking in different directions. The competition will be significant, and moves will likely be made at a fast pace, so Cashman needs to be on his game over the next few days, if not immediately after the holidays.