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The Tuesday Discussion: If Not Yamamoto...Who?

December 19, 2023


This week we asked our writers, the following:

If the Yankees fail to sign Yoshinobu Yamamoto, which pitcher(s) should the Yankees seek to acquire to solidify the starting rotation?

Their responses are below.


James Vlietstra - The Yankees no longer have almost 70 games started from their 2023 roster. So, to me, even if they do get Yamamoto, they should still be in the market for more starting pitching. You really can never have enough.  In a typical year, each team has 7-8 different pitchers start 8+ games. Last year, the Yankees had eight with at least 9.

So assuming health for Cole, Schmidt, Rodon, and Cortes, they would be counting on significant innings from players yet to make their MLB debut. This includes Beeter, Warren, and Hampton. Gomez and Gil could contribute as well. 

Here are some options from outside the organization:

Julio Urias. 27 years old. Had a WAR of 9.7 between 2021-22

Mike Clevinger, 33, Has had 4 years of at least 3.0 WAR

Brandon Woodruff, 30, has averaged 3+ WAR over the past 5 years. 

Jordan Montgomery, 31, coming off a career high 4.2 WAR, has proven himself in NY

Blake Snell, has won CY Award in each league, 6.0 WAR last year, if willing to overpay for Yamamoto, could he be an option?

Tarik Skubal, 27, has 3 more years of control with the Tigers

Dylan Cease, 28, has 2 more years of control with the WhiteSox

What would the ask be for either of them?

Here’s a name I haven’t heard… Trevor Bauer. He’s already made a boatload of money. I think now he wants to redeem himself. All the charges against him seem to have been without merit. I can see him being a super bargain. Maybe a 2 year $14M contract. 


Derek McAdam - If the Yankees are looking to get a top-name starter, Jordan Montgomery wouldn’t be a bad choice. The Yankees know that he can handle the pressure, while also providing a good left-handed 2nd or 3rd option in the rotation. It might not be my favorite transaction, but if they get him at a good price, it’s a reunion I’ll be glad to see.


Cary Greene - My short answer is Blake Snell. (I'll have more at 10:00 a.m.)


Mike Whiteman - If the Yanks lose out on Yamamoto, then I'd like to see them reach out to the Brewers and discuss a deal for Corbin Burnes. I like to see the team pursue a "1A" starter to line up right after Gerrit Cole. If Burnes isn't an option, then I'd like to see the team pivot to Jordan Montgomery and/or Shota Imanaga. 


Paul Semendinger - If the Yankees can't sign Yamamoto, they should pivot to a different plan for acquiring a pitcher: trades.

The Yankees should sign Cody Bellinger to keep Aaron Judge out of centerfield and to extend the lineup. (He also provides first base insurance for Anthony Rizzo and lets Jasson Dominguez return on his time.) But, Bellinger would also give the Yankees a ton of trading depth. Assuming Spencer Jones is for real, the Yankees could keep him and still have available for trade: Alex Verdugo, Trent Grisham, Everson Pereira, Oscar Gonzalez, Estevan Florial, Oswaldo Cabrera, Brando Mayea, Anthony Hall, and Chase Avina (those are just the outfielders on the 40-man roster and the top prospects who would be tradeable - there are, of course, other players too) for pitching. I think the Yankees could easily get Dylan Cease and Corbin Burnes with that kind of talent.

Hummm... A rotation of Cole, Yamamoto, Rodon, Cortes, and Schmidt or

A rotation of Cole, Burnes, Cease, Rodon, and Cortes, plus Bellinger in CF...

I like my option better in many ways. (Plus they'd still have Jasson Dominguez and Spencer Jones and save money comparing what Bellinger should get and what Yamamoto would.)

I still want Yamamoto on the Yankees, my this fall-back option looks pretty darn good.


Ed Botti - In my view, there are not a lot of MLB starting pitchers available that would elevate the Yankees rotation in 2024. There are plenty of  mid rotation pitchers available, but the Yankees have a few of them already (and unloaded about 10 of them in the last 2 weeks via trades and Rule 5 draft). So I guess they can address depth.


You really can’t go wrong if you sign the defending Cy Young winner (Blake Snell) or bring back a proven commodity such as Jordan Montgomery. It all comes down to money and what these players' agents think they are worth.

As far as international pitchers go, I am not very bullish on any of them for 1 reason: I have never really seen them pitch before, besides the WBC and some highlights. I have no idea what their make up is like. Yes, we all see the stats that Yamamoto has put up in Japan, but here’s a news flash: Japanese Baseball is not Major League Baseball.

What will Yamamoto do with the game on the line and a player like Judge, Soto, Guerrero, Harper, Alonso, Acuña, Ramirez, Freeman or Betts (to name a few) digging in with the winning run in scoring position? No one knows at this point. It is all guess work. For every Masahiro Tanaka there are plenty of Kei Igawa types or guys that fall in between that have made the leap to MLB.


It is a huge risk, in my opinion. Taking a risk is not a bad move if it makes sense financially and all sides are weighed out. From what we are all hearing now, Yamamoto’s asking price is escalating daily, as if he was the 2001 version of Randy Johnson or a prime version of Clayton Kershaw or Justin Verlander, which he has not proven he is. Maybe he will. You want to roll that dice? I don’t, at least not at $200MM +.


Same thought process goes for the Korean League (KBO). Case in Point-- Erick Fedde (21-33, 5.41 ERA in 6 MLB seassons) just went 20-6 with a 2.00 ERA in the KBO, won the 2023 MVP award, and parlayed that to $15MM over 2 years with the ChiSox.


That’s not a crazy risk by Chicago. No one is expecting 20-6, 2.00 in 2024, and his price tag was worth the risk.


Yamamoto? He wants established “Ace” money and years, or close to it, and for some reason many are expecting/predicting him to peform in MLB like he did in Japan. Why him and not Fedde?


I may be wrong on this, but I seriously doubt Fedde would have put those numbers up playing in the Bronx or anywhere else in MLB. We’ll soon see how his 2024 plays out in Chicago.


So, my long answer is go get a legitimate and established MLB pitcher like Montgomery or Snell (if their market valuation is reasonable) and then grab Hader to close.



Dec 19, 2023

The Yankees possess trade capital and ought to utilize it, as Paul has noted. It will be intriguing to see which team Yamamoto signs with, however, committing to a sum of $300 million is a significant risk for any pitcher, and it appears that Cole is the exception. Burnes would be nice add along with Bauer on a cheap 2yr. deal (Yankee fans would go Ape S*** Crazy) but he would be a steal. In house Beeter and Warren and Gil in house are options.


Dec 19, 2023

given that the Yankee coaches put a premium on striking people out, Snell.

given that, other than a 'can't-miss' guy, and Yamamoto is the only one of those, the Yankees will not wish to sign a free agent pitcher to a long term deal while merely 'good' pitchers are available, Snell.

given that there are likely to be a large selection of "good" starters again available at the trade deadline (and next season)


given that the team is in a position where it's better to hold on to prospects after sending away half of a dozen, Snell and a second young starter, one not generally prized in the US.

of course, failing to sign Yamamoto is not best practice…


Dec 19, 2023

Yes the Yankees lost pitchers who started > 70 games for them in total. But I'm not sweating the loss of Vazquez and Brito. They rarely pitched past the 5th inning (and frequently didn't make it that far) so they can likely be replaced from internal options. King only started 9 games. I realize he was being counted on for more but was also a injury risk. The loss of Severino and German (49 starts between them) is where the Yankees have to fill in. I think Yamomoto is the real deal even considering the differences between the NPB and MLB. It's not so much his numbers as the way his pitches profile. I don't think he's an Igawa or…


Dec 19, 2023

Great subject for discussion, and all the analysis was excellent. Everyone made a very good case for their contingency plans. Although there is no consensus choice, I gather that Burnes seems to be the top trade option, and Montgomery seem to be the top free agent option. They both have their merits, and either one would improve the team.

Mr. Botti made a really, really, good point with the Erick Fedde take. I have never looked at the issue from that angle, and it an astute observation. It will influence my future thinking when I am considering the statistics of players in foreign leagues.

Trevor Bauer did indeed escape his legal conundrum, but if you ignore that entire issue, there…


Alan B.
Alan B.
Dec 19, 2023

Hmmm, no Yamamoto, what to do? Well as I've said, the Yankees will get one of the Japanese starters, so I expect they will pivot and sign Imanaga within 7 days of losing out on Yamamoto.

Jordan Montgomery? Personally, because of his now-wife, Boston is the odds on favorite for him. But as much as everyone says there is no bad blood between both sides, the reality is, there is significant downside to Cashman and his anti-FB pitching philosophy. You're not going to give Monty all that money then tell him: 'Now we need you to go back to pitching our way, like we taught you.' That won't fly because that will be counterproductive. Monty got better when Maddux she…

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