1. Yusei Kikuchi
We tried to tell you! We really tried to tell you the Yankees should bank on a Kikuchi bounce-back and trade for the lefty prior to the 2021 season.
Jerry Dipoto loves to trade! It’s, like, his entire thing. He probably would’ve found a way to swing a trade with the Yanks this winter in an effort to push the pendulum in the other direction after the Justus Sheffield-James Paxton swap.
This season, Kikuchi has leveled up, making the first All-Star team of his career at the age of 30 in his third big-league campaign. He’s struck out 135 men in 125.1 innings pitched, and has accrued an impressive 2.4 WAR. This is, oddly, the last guaranteed year of his contract, with “team options” to follow from 2022-2025. Considering how heartless Dipoto was a few weeks back when he sent closer Kendall Gravemen to a division rival in the thick of a playoff race, don’t you think the Yankees promising him they’d pick up next year’s option instead entice the born trader within his soul to emerge once more?
The advanced metrics aren’t quite as kind to Kikuchi, who has a bottom-6% average exit velocity this year and an expected ERA that sits well above his current mark (4.40 vs 3.73). They liked him a lot more last year, in fact, when he pitched like a true-talent 3.37 ERA hurler.
You can’t argue with a lefty who can touch 98 with his fastball and spot it while making an All-Star squad, though. The Yankees should once again place a call to the Northwest, where they’ll surely find Dipoto wide awake at any hour, eyes bloodshot and ready to deal.