Why the Yankees Should Make a Serious Offer for Kodai Senga
By Derek McAdam
November 25, 2022
Going into the 2023 season, the Yankees currently have four certain starters that will be in the starting rotation, including Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes Jr., Luis Severino, and Frankie Montas. Jameson Taillon is a current free agent, and it does not seen as if the Yankees have much interest in bringing him back. The Yankees can choose to replace Taillon’s spot in the rotation by either signing a free agent, trading for a starter, or promoting one of their own minor leaguers.
In free agency, Kodai Senga, who had a career 2022 season in Japan, is among the top free agent pitchers. Alongside Justin Verlander, Jacob deGrom, and Carlos Rodon, Senga is expected to draw significant interest and potentially come as a much cheaper option for teams. Senga does not have a Qualifying Offer attached to him, which allows for teams that went above the salary cap to not have to forfeit any draft picks or International spending money.
In 2022, Senga posted an 11-6 record with a 1.89 ERA in 23 games. While Senga will be entering his age-30 season in 2023 without having pitched a game in the Majors, he will still be a valuable asset for any team that is looking to compete for a World Series now or build up a team to compete within a couple of years.
While Verlander has been linked to the Yankees over the past couple of off-seasons, the three-time Cy Young Award winner will be turning 40 years old before the start of the season and has publicly said that he wants a contract similar to Max Scherzer’s deal with the Mets, a multi-year deal with an AAV over $40 million. There is uncertainty regarding his ability to hold up as an ace for another two or three seasons. Verlander has been in the league since 2005, and is still seen as one of the few “workhorses” in the league. It’s a big risk that the Yankees are most likely not willing to take.
When deGrom is on the field, he is arguably the best starter in baseball, if not at least top five. The problem facing deGrom is that he has been dealing with injuries over the past few seasons. deGrom will be 35 in June, and while he most likely has more left in the tank than Verlander, this is yet another risk that the Yankees may not be willing to take a chance with. Yes, the Yankees have checked in on deGrom, but don’t take too much stock in that.
Rodon is an interesting case. Rodon is coming off two solid seasons in which he posted sub-3.00 ERAs in each of the seasons. Rodon would also give the Yankees another left-handed option in the rotation, which would balance the rotation out nicely. However, Rodon is turning 30 next month, and will likely receive a long-term deal, given he is the top free agent pitcher that is not over 34. Should the Yankees trust that they would get the same pitcher from the past two seasons, or would they get the pitcher that Rodon was for many years? Good, but nothing extremely special.
That’s where Senga comes back into the conversation. Over the past few years, the Japanese players that make the transition to the Majors have typically turned out well. Some players, such as Masahiro Tanaka, performed well, even though they could not replicate their stats from their playing days in Japan. Others, such as Shohei Ohtani, have played even better than they did in Japan. But there don’t seem to have been many busts over the past decade.
Obviously, this does not guarantee that Senga will be able to make the transition and have success. Even if the Yankees acquired Ohtani, there is no guarantee that he will work out in the Bronx. But this is a risk the Yankees should be willing to take.
Looking at the rotation, Cole and Cortes are going to be the two pitchers that lead the rotation. There are major questions regarding Severino’s health and whether or not Montas can adjust to pitching for the Yankees and turning himself around from his disastrous start in New York. And who knows if Cole can rebound from his worst season in the Bronx last season and whether or not Cortes can keep up the pace. Senga might be the glue that brings this rotation together, which is why the Yankees should make a serious push for the pitcher and bring him to the Bronx.