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What’s next for Yankees? Why win-now pitching moves are only choice after missing Yoshinobu Yamamoto

What's next for Yankees? Why win-now pitching moves are only choice after missing Yoshinobu Yamamoto

In an offseason in which they landed the great Juan Soto, the New York Yankees were dealt a major blow Thursday night. Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto agreed to a record 12-year, $325 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. It is the largest pitching contract in baseball history. Add in the $50 million posting fee and Yamamoto is a $375 million investment all told.

The Yankees are said to have bid $300 million for Yamamoto, a pitcher they coveted and at times expressed confidence they would sign. Instead, they now have to pivot to an uninspiring free agent class to reinforce a pitching staff that was thinned by the Soto trade, among other things. At the moment, New York’s starting rotation looks something like this:

  1. RHP Gerrit Cole (amazing)
  2. LHP Carlos Rodón (6.85 ERA around injuries in 2023)
  3. LHP Nestor Cortes (4.97 ERA around injured in 2023)
  4. RHP Clarke Schmidt (set a new career high by 66 innings in 2023)
  5. RHP Luis Gil (missed 2023 with Tommy John surgery)
  6. RHP Clayton Beeter (4.94 ERA and 5.6 BB/9 in Triple-A in 2023)
  7. RHP Will Warren (not on 40-man roster)

There’s Cole, the reigning Cy Young winner and arguably the best pitcher in the sport, and then a whole lot of uncertainty. As talented as he is, Yamamoto comes with his own red flags, though he would have been a significant addition to a rotation that lacks depth more than potential impact. The Yankees have a very boom-or-busty rotation behind Cole.

Reigning NL Cy Young winner Blake Snell and former Yankee Jordan Montgomery are, pretty clearly, the two best unsigned free agent starters, and both are on the wrong side of 30. Ditto Japanese lefty Shota Imanaga and veteran sinkerballer Marcus Stroman. Lucas Giolito will play most of next season at age 29. He also had a 4.88 ERA and allowed 41 home runs in 2023.

The trade market offers rentals Shane Bieber and Corbin Burnes, and Dylan Cease’s two years of control. The Yankees still have several desirable trade chips — outfielder Spencer Jones and righties Warren and Chase Hampton chief among them — though they already dipped deep into their farm system with the Soto trade. Do they want to deplete the system further?

At this point though, what other options do the Yankees have? Soto will be a free agent next offseason and, as a top Scott Boras client, he will likely not sign an extension. If Soto returns to the Yankees in 2025, it will be because they won a…

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