Yankees pass on another top starting pitcher as market thins

mlb: alds-houston astros at minnesota twins, sonny gray, yankees
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees have been patient with the start of free agency, but the expectation is they will be aggressive and spend big on several premium players. The talk of the town is Juan Soto and acquiring him via trade, but international star pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto is also a regular topic on the hot stove.

Yamamoto has pitched three consecutive years with a minimum of 170 innings, showcasing his durability at just 25 years old.

In 2023, he hosted a 1.21 ERA with the Orix Buffaloes, giving up just 22 earned runs, two homers and collecting 169 strikeouts across 164 innings. He’s one of the best free agents on the market, and the Yankees are a significant player for his services, having just been posted early last week.

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The Yankees are Set to Meet With Yamamoto

Yamamoto is meeting with teams via Zoom and then traveling to the USA to wind down the process and find a new home. Whichever team signs him will have to pay a posting fee to the Buffaloes of $20+ million since he’s expected to land a contract in the $200 million range.

The Yankees have already passed on several free agent starting pitchers, notably Aaron Nola, who signed an extension with the Philadelphia Phillies, and most recently Sonny Gray, who landed with the St. Louis Cardinals on a three-year, $75 million deal.

Gray is a former pitcher for the Yankees, but at 34 years old, the team needs to get younger despite his dominance the past two seasons. Gray pitched 184 innings in 2023 with the Minnesota Twins, hosting a 2.79 ERA and 2.83 FIP, including 8.95 strikeouts per nine, a 76.8% left-on-base rate, and a 47.3% ground ball rate. He gave up the fewest home runs in his career per nine innings and showcased phenomenal stuff despite heading toward the end of his prime.

Unsurprisingly, the Yankees are looking at younger alternatives, even if that means reuniting with lefty Jordan Montgomery, who is 30 years old and looking for a long-term deal. Montgomery recently won a World Series with the Texas Rangers, enjoying a collective 3.20 ERA across a career-high 188.2 innings.

In a perfect world, the Bombers land Yamamoto and his upside — he could transform into an ace as Gerrit Cole continues to age coming off a Cy Young award-winning season.