Entering the 2023 season, the New York Yankees had the best starting rotation in baseball ... on paper. Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodón, Nestor Cortes, Luis Severino and Frankie Montas were supposed to take the league by storm.
But then Montas needed shoulder surgery (something every fan knew was going to happen after the injury complications stemming from his acquisition at the deadline). Then Rodón went down with a forearm injury and a mysterious back ailment. Then Severino's annual ailment took hold and he missed the first month and a half of the season. Then Cortes wasn't right, it was determined he was dealing with a shoulder injury, and he'll finish the season with 12 starts. Cole's been the only steadfast arm from start to finish.
When the offseason arrives, Montas and Severino will be gone. One can guess Clarke Schmidt will be factored into the 2024 rotation while the team treads lightly with the projections for Rodón and Cortes, both of whom could very well be compromised come next April.
All of a sudden, the perceived strongest area of the roster just a few months ago will need a facelift in the offseason, which now explains the Yankees' reported interest in Japanese star Yoshinobu Yamamoto.
According to Jon Heyman of the New York Post, the Yankees were among teams scouting Yamamoto in his most recent start for the Orix Buffaloes.
Yankees Rumors: New York scouting star Japanese pitcher in offseason preparation
Last offseason, fans wanted the Yankees to go after fellow Japanese star Kodai Senga, who ended up signing a five-year, $75 million contract with the Mets. Yamamoto, who is of similar caliber, might be a legitimate priority this time around with clear vacancies in the rotation.
Yamamoto has had a dominant 2023 season and currently sports a 1.34 ERA and 0.90 WHIP with 135 strikeouts in 19 starts (134 innings). Similarly, in 2022, Senga owned a 1.94 ERA and 1.06 WHIP with 156 strikeouts in 22 starts (144 innings). We can certainly expect a contract in the $75-$100 million range (plus the posting fee).
But the Yankees will reportedly be competing with Mets, Red Sox, Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Phillies, Rangers and Tigers.
Yamamoto boasts a four-seam fastball that touches 97 MPH in addition to a cutter, curveball and splitter, and will likely be in higher demand come free agency because of Shohei Ohtani's elbow injury that may prevent him from pitching until 2025.
It'll just depend on how far Hal Steinbrenner is willing to go with potential forthcoming front office changes and a roster makeover.