Yankees’ free agent pitching target puts on a show in 2023 finale

olympics: baseball-men semifinal - jpn-kor, yoshinobu yamamoto, yankees
Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees have openly shown interest in international pitching sensation Yoshinobu Yamamoto. General manager Brian Cashman, along with other Yankee executives, made the trip to Japan to observe Yamamoto’s prowess firsthand. Impressively, Cashman had the opportunity to witness Yamamoto pitch a no-hitter, confirming his potential to be a major asset in the MLB.

Yamamoto’s Promise of Youth and Durability

At just 25 years old, Yamamoto has demonstrated both youth and endurance, having pitched over 170 innings in three consecutive seasons. Should the Yankees invest $200 million in this rising star, he could not only enhance the rotation but also potentially succeed Gerrit Cole as the team’s leading pitcher as Cole’s performance begins to wane.

Competition for Yamamoto Heats Up

Yoshinobu Yamamoto is expected to be a hot commodity in the free-agent market. The New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, and even the San Francisco Giants are all rumored to be interested. However, Cashman is committed to thorough due diligence to determine if the investment aligns with the Yankees’ financial strategy.

In the Japan Professional Baseball League (JPPL), Yamamoto excelled with a 1.21 ERA over 164 innings, allowing only 22 earned runs and two home runs, and notching 169 strikeouts. His elite skill set and considerable potential make him an attractive prospect for the pinnacle of baseball competition. The Yankees already have several players over 25 with minimal experience, such as Clarke Schmidt, but Yamamoto’s talent could eclipse these emerging talents.

A Show-Stopping Final Performance

Yamamoto’s last game in Japan was nothing short of spectacular, with a nine-inning performance in Game 6 of the Japan Series, yielding nine hits, one earned run, and achieving a record 14 strikeouts in a single game. This outstanding outing may further increase his value and appeal to MLB teams.

olympics: baseball-men semifinal - jpn-kor, yoshinobu yamamoto, yankees
Aug 4, 2021; Yokohama, Japan; Team Japan pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto (17) throws a pitch against Korea in a baseball semifinal match during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Yokohama Baseball Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

Yamamoto’s potential to replicate his dominance in the MLB could make him a superstar, particularly in New York. The Yankees have previously been cautious in their international acquisitions, but the success with Masahiro Tanaka suggests that Yamamoto could represent a significant investment opportunity. However, the Yankees may need to outbid the Mets, who have financial flexibility after releasing two major contracts and already have Kodai Senga—who shares an agent with Yamamoto—on their roster.

Financial Decisions and Future Roster Moves

The decision for the Yankees may boil down to their willingness to invest $30 million annually in Yamamoto, and potentially in Juan Soto, who could command a similar amount in his final arbitration year. Owner Hal Steinbrenner has shown reluctance to exceed the final luxury tax threshold. Yet, if he is to fulfill his promise of building a World Series-contending team around Aaron Judge, the Yankees may find themselves delving deep into their finances to secure top-tier talent like Yamamoto.

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