There are two wolves inside every Yankees fan. One is reaming out Hal Steinbrenner for missing out on Yoshinobu Yamamoto, while the other understands he offered the highest AAV for a pitcher who's never appeared in MLB (but is still reminding Steinbrenner that he sucks for countless other reasons).
Whichever name joins the Yankees after Yamamoto's departure from dreamland will look disappointing in the immediate aftermath. Fans staked their offseason hopes on a YamaSoto pairing, and rightfully so; organizations like the Dodgers, Red Sox, Mets and Giants all appraised the 25-year-old international free agent similarly. Odds are signing Yamamoto was a unique opportunity to welcome an all-world talent at an earlier age than he ever would've hit free agency.
But, even with opt outs after Years 5 and 8 of the $325 million deal, it's still a $325 million deal. The Yankees offered less money, but more per year for a decade. He chose the team with Shohei Ohtani. There wasn't nothing they could've done. They could've tried $400 million. But, for all intents and purposes, this was over weeks ago, and the leak-happy Yankees on Thursday had likely already pivoted.
So, what's next? You're not going to like these names at first blush, but with Juan Soto's contract negotiations on the horizon and Carlos Rodón's lengthy deal on the books, splashing big cash on a non-Yamamoto starter just isn't a prudent decision. The Yankees just depleted their prospect capital for Soto; Corbin Burnes isn't walking through that door. Jordan Montgomery hates the Yankees' front office, and there's no way he and the team are on the same page about his value, just 16 months after they last clashed. There's a minute chance Aaron Judge grabs the GM reins and bullies the team into signing his friend, Blake Snell, but that seems unlikely.
The following three options are realistic, as long as the Yankees are willing to get slightly creative. What they need most, right now, is a big pile of innings. Add Frankie Montas to all three of these packages (he feels like a given), show aggressive faith in Will Warren and Chase Hampton, and go contend for the right to battle it out in the World Series against whichever team upsets the Dodgers in the NLDS.
3 realistic Yankees pitching additions after Yoshinobu Yamamoto signs with Dodgers
Dylan Cease Trade (with Extra Piece)
It's time for fans to face reality. Following the Soto trade, the Yankees will not be depleting their farm system any further in exchange for any of the top available arms on the market. One year of Corbin Burnes will cost Spencer Jones and Warren/Hampton. The Yankees will not acquiesce.
The only way they would be able to acquire someone like Dylan Cease of the White Sox would be if Chicago valued Everson Pereira/Oswald Peraza at the top of the market. That package is unlikely to tempt even the very temptable Chris Getz unless the Yankees also agreed to take on a problem child in the deal.
What about Yoan Moncada, who's signed only through 2024 and has a team option attached for '25? The third baseman is long removed from his 21st-place finish in the MVP balloting in 2019, but put up league-average 97 OPS+ production at the position in 2023 and still carries top prospect pedigree with him (and will continue to long after he's irrelevant). He makes $24 million next season for a White Sox team that has no designs on contending.
If the Yankees agree to absorb Moncada and include a lower-level lottery ticket from the FCL (Henry Lalane?), this could become more realistic. If Moncada's not involved, this probably has to get uncomfortable and include Roderick Arias. The White Sox, though, were cooling on dealing Cease for a reason as recently as early December. They might not bite.