Yankees’ off-season attention turns toward elite starting pitcher

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

The past two days for the New York Yankees have undoubtedly been a whirlwind of emotion and activity. They secured Alex Verdugo and Juan Soto to help plug starting outfield positions, but they had to give up a significant amount of pitching to get the job done.

After the new additions and three minor-league pitchers being stolen in the Rule 5 Draft, the Yankees are now down 10 pitchers, most of whom had never seen an MLB field before. However, general manager Brian Cashman will need to develop more pieces in the future, but he still has a few notable arms that have substantial upside. Will Warren, Clayton Beeter, and Chase Hampton stand out as key pieces in 2024 but the Yankees need MLB pitching after sending Michael King to the San Diego Padres.

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The Yankees Are Eyeing Yoshinobu Yamamoto

It is no secret that Cashman has his eyes set on Yoshinobu Yamamoto, but there will be heavy competition, given New York Mets owner Steve Cohen personally traveled to Japan to meet the star international prospect.

Yamamoto has elite upside at just 25 years old and is coming off another dominant campaign with the Orix Buffaloes. In the JPPL, Yamamoto pitched 164 innings, recording a 1.21 ERA, allowing 22 earned runs, two home runs, and striking out 169 batters.

Some reports have indicated that Yamamoto could earn a contract upward of $250 million, well above the expected $200 million mark he was expected to reach. Others even have him surpassing $300 million, so there may be a line that the Yankees are unwilling to cross, which will leave them to the second-tier market, which still isn’t bad.

The Yankees could target Jordan Montgomery if they miss out on Yamamoto, but the truth is simple: they need another top-line starter with Gerrit Cole and Carlos Rodon. Soto has an estimated $30 million in arbitration, giving the Yankees a $274 million projected total payroll.

Reportedly, Steinbrenner isn’t going to shy away from passing $300 million in active total payroll, indicating they may be willing to spend on Yamamoto.

If the Yankees were to land the Japanese star, they would have seven players with a minimum of $20 million in luxury tax salary for the 2024 season. That is an astronomical amount, but Steinbrenner is doing what his father once did — spend his way out of adversity.