Yankees’ Yamamoto pivot could be a World Series-winning starter

MLB: Seattle Mariners at New York Yankees
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Most fans don’t want to live in a world where the New York Yankees fail to acquire Yoshinobu Yamamoto on the free agent market. He’s still meeting with teams, having just had dinner with Mets owner Steve Cohen and connecting with the Yankees for a second visit in New York on Sunday, but the jury is still out.

The MLB world awaits his decision, which will promptly allow the pitching market to move forward. Plenty of prominent players are vying for his signature, but the Yankees have a strong stance and feel confident about their chances of landing his services.

However, they are far from a lock, and the Yankees need to think about alternative options if the worst-case scenario comes to fruition. In fact, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Yankees have already detailed one pivot they can make if they fail to sign the Japanese star pitcher.

“A rotation without Yamamoto would require at least one more starter, and the Yankees, at least internally, have discussed a reunion with free-agent lefty Jordan Montgomery.”

The Yankees Could Look to a Familiar Face

The Yankees have discussed the idea of reuniting with Jordan Montgomery, a familiar face. At 30 years old, the lefty pitcher is coming off a World Series-winning season with the Texas Rangers, having been traded at the midway point from the St. Louis Cardinals. He pitched a career-high 188.2 innings, hosting a 3.20 ERA, 3.56 FIP, 7.92 strikeouts per nine, a 75.6% left-on-base rate, and 43.2% ground ball rate. He was excellent for the most part but was even better once he joined the Rangers, finishing with a 2.79 ERA.

Funny enough, Montgomery was traded from the Yankees because they didn’t view him as a starting pitcher during the postseason. Over 31 playoff innings this past campaign, he hosted a 2.90 ERA with an 82% left-on-base rate. For the most part, he was fantastic, and the Yankees were certainly scratching their heads as he pushed through the postseason without many blips on the radar.

Keep in mind the difference between Yamamoto and Montgomery is significant. One is 25 years old and has pitched three consecutive years of over 170 innings, and the other is 30 years old, heading toward the back end of his prime, and has pitched significantly more in the MLB. A proven commodity versus a high-priced gamble is what the Yankees need to weigh, and it seems they’ve already made their decision on their preference.

Yamamoto has incredible upside with his pitch sequence and decent velocity. It may take him a bit of time to adjust to the MLB, which has a different baseball and far more prominent hitters, but expectations are that he will make a seamless transition and become a high-level starter within a year.

The only good thing about landing Montgomery would be his price tag, which could be half of what Yamamoto is expected to land. Expectations have the Japanese international securing a deal over $300 million, while Montgomery may hover around $150 million. The Yankees could theoretically take that other half and spend it on a player like Cody Bellinger, solidifying their outfield for years to come, but that is an unlikely scenario, and the Yankees may regret it. Alternatively, they could sign two good starting pitches or supercharge their bullpen.

With that type of money, the Yankees would have plenty of options if they lose out on Yamamoto, but the preference is they land a potential superstar who could hold down the fort for the next six to eight years alongside Gerrit Cole.

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