Yankees should add two international stars in free agency

Olympics: Baseball-Men Group B - KOR-USA, jung-hoo lee, yankees
Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees, aiming to recalibrate their journey back to the zenith of Major League Baseball, are approaching a pivotal off-season. Their pathway to resurgence arguably lies within the international talent pool, pivoting from their recent trend of hefty investments in players past their prime.

Rethinking Investment Strategies

The Yankees’ brass, led by General Manager Brian Cashman, has faced criticism for their roster’s costly aging core, epitomized by the likes of Josh Donaldson. This off-season presents a chance to break that mold, turning their gaze to promising talent on the international scene and embracing a more youth-centric rebuilding philosophy.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto: A High-Ceiling Investment

In pursuit of youthful, star-grade talent, pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto emerges as a prime target. Cashman’s personal scouting mission to Japan underscored the organization’s interest, with Yamamoto’s stellar performances, including a no-hitter and a standout 1.21 ERA over 171 innings, cementing his appeal.

However, snagging Yamamoto won’t come without a fight. The New York Mets, with significant financial muscle flexed post-big-name departures, are keen contenders. The Yankees, facing roster and salary recalibrations, might find the financial latitude necessary to engage fully in the bidding war, seeing Yamamoto as a long-term rotational cornerstone, especially as they navigate the pitfalls of costly, injury-marred pitching investments like Carlos Rodon.

Jung-Hoo Lee: A Potential Outfield Solution

The Yankees’ international scouting shouldn’t stop on the pitcher’s mound. Outfielder Jung-Hoo Lee, with his impressive accolades in the KBO, including five consecutive Gold Gloves, is an enticing prospect. Despite a truncated recent season, his career metrics paint the picture of a disciplined batter with a sharp defensive acumen.

Lee played only 86 games this past season, hitting .318 with a .406 OBP, including six homers and 45 RBIs with a 12.7% walk rate and a 5.9% strikeout rate. However, his 2022 season was elite, playing 142 games, hitting .349 with a .421 OBP, .575 slugging rate, a career-high 23 homers, and 113 RBIs. He struck out at just 5.1% with a 10.5% walk rate And 175 wRC+.

While free agency offers alternatives like Kevin Kiermaier, Lee’s potential, particularly as a left-handed batter, aligns well with the Yankees’ ballpark dynamics. His addition could signify not just a roster enhancement but also a strategic shift.

Reviving Successful International Ventures

Post-Masahiro Tanaka, the team’s international ventures have dwindled. Yet, their history with Japanese players, especially, was marked by notable successes. A return to these roots, especially in a market characterized by slimmer pickings and aging domestic options, seems not just strategic but somewhat necessary.

Cody Bellinger presents a costly gamble, potentially making a talent like Lee, who may transition effectively into MLB, a more balanced risk-reward proposition.

Looking Ahead: Strategic Decisions for the Yankees on the Horizon

The Yankees stand at a crossroads this off-season, with critical decisions looming. Their moves in the international market could well define the trajectory of the franchise in the coming years, potentially heralding a new era of younger, high-ceiling talent driving their World Series aspirations. The focus is firmly on Cashman and his team to navigate these waters wisely, balancing financial commitments, talent potential, and the ever-present demand for a return to championship glory.

Mentioned in this article:

More about: