Who are the alternatives left for the Yankees after missing out on Yamamoto?

Yankees pitcher Ron Marinaccio at Yankee Stadium in May 2023.
Michael Bennington
Friday December 22, 2023

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The Yankees faced a setback in their pursuit of sought-after free agent Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who they view as a key piece in their rotation. They must pivot quickly to Plan B after losing the Yamamoto sweepstakes. But the question arises: where does Brian Cashman and the team go from here?

Despite a vigorous effort from Brian Cashman and his team, the New York Yankees failed to secure him. Instead, the Japanese ace opted for a 12-year, $325 million deal with the Dodgers. This development is undoubtedly disappointing for both the team and its fans, who held high expectations, believing they were leading contenders for the market’s premier pitcher. Yamamoto, at just 25 years old with top-tier skills, seemed like the perfect complement to Gerrit Cole.

While fans may still be grappling with this reality, the offseason affords little time for lamentation. With the pitching market now wide open, the Yankees face additional challenges in their quest to storm back to playoff contention after the dismal 2023 season. With Yamamoto no longer in the picture, what is the Yankees’ Plan B? How can Cashman navigate this situation, and who might be on the radar in the days and weeks ahead? Let’s analyze the options.

Yankees may bring back Jordan Montgomery

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The primary objective for this roster becomes increasingly evident: secure dependable starting pitching assistance. At present, the Yankees’ rotation is projected to include Cole, Carlos Rodon, Nestor Cortes Jr., Clarke Schmidt, and a mix of Luis Gil, Yoendrys Gomez, or high-minors prospects Will Warren and Clayton Beeter—an uninspiring lineup, especially considering Rodon and Cortes’ struggles in 2023.

What the Yankees require is a proven performer, another stalwart to slot behind Cole and deliver consistent innings. Montgomery is an ideal fit in this regard: although lacking the upside of Yamamoto, the left-hander is a dependable No. 2 or No. 3 option who meshes well in Yankee Stadium, boasts familiarity with the AL East, and has demonstrated notable durability in recent years. Failing to secure Montgomery could leave Cashman in the position of taking a gamble on a rebound candidate like Lucas Giolito or parting with valuable players on the trade market.

The Cuban option

Cuban pitcher Yariel Rodriguez at WBC
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As per MLB reporter Francys Romero, the Yankees are actively involved in the competition to acquire Yariel Rodriguez, a 26-year-old Cuban power pitcher aspiring to make his debut in the majors in 2024. Romero’s report on Thursday indicated that the Blue Jays, Pirates, and Astros are also among the leading contenders to secure Rodriguez’s services. However, the pitcher is unlikely to finalize a deal until the MLB destination for Yamamoto is confirmed.

Rodriguez, a right-hander, posted a 3.03 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings over 175 1/3 frames in three NPB seasons from 2020-2022. Notably, he chose not to participate in any league in 2023, opting instead to train for MLB, as reported by Baseball America. The publication highlighted Rodriguez’s transformation from a pitcher with an 87-90 mph fastball in Cuba to a player who enhanced his profile in Japan with a mid-90s fastball, capable of reaching 100 mph. Additionally, he possesses a slider.

Described as a “highly emotional” player by Baseball America, Rodriguez was previously one of NPB’s top setup men. However, his two starts in the 2023 World Baseball Classic elevated his status as a starting pitcher. The specific role teams envision for him is yet to be determined, but the prospect of a spot in the rotation is likely to be a significant selling point.

Trade options

Left-handed Blake Snell, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, also emerges as viable consideration. While there have been internal discussions about reuniting with Montgomery, the Yankees haven’t been strongly linked to Snell, but his candidacy shouldn’t be ruled out, especially given his longstanding friendship with team captain Aaron Judge.

In the trade market, the Yankees might explore the Milwaukee Brewers, who could entertain the idea of trading right-handed ace Corbin Burnes. Burnes, 29, is set to become a free agent after the upcoming season, with an estimated salary of around $15 million in his final year of arbitration in 2024, according to MLB Trade Rumors. However, it remains uncertain how willing the Brewers are to part ways with Burnes, who posted a 3.39 ERA in 32 starts last year, finishing eighth in the NL Cy Young vote.

Another trade possibility is right-hander Dylan Cease of the Chicago White Sox. According to the New York Post’s Jon Heyman, the White Sox may have started to scale back on trade talks for Cease in early December. Despite a challenging 2023 season (7-9 record and a 4.58 ERA in 33 starts), Cease displayed considerable talent and finished as the runner-up in the AL Cy Young race in 2022, with a 14-8 record and a 2.20 ERA in 32 starts.

Internal options to fall back

As of Thursday, Boone indicated that the Yankees plan to rely on prospects Will Warren, Luis Gil, and Chase Hampton to step up and compensate for the pitching depth lost in trades.

Warren, with a 3.60 ERA in 21 games (19 starts) at Triple-A last year, stands out as possibly the most major-league-ready among the trio. Gil, who made his debut in the big leagues in 2021 and pitched again in 2022, unfortunately, missed the entire last season due to Tommy John surgery. In contrast, Hampton has yet to pitch above Double-A.

Boone mentioned several players the team believes are advancing toward the next level and anticipates serving as crucial depth assets for the team in the upcoming year.

A potential cost-effective option for the Yankees could involve a reunion with right-hander Frankie Montas. Montas expressed his desire to return at the conclusion of the regular season, earning praise from Boone for his presence and leadership during rehabilitation from right shoulder surgery at the team’s player development complex.

What about the Yankees bullpen?

The Yankees’ bullpen situation raises some uncertainties. Certain fixtures include Clay Holmes, Jonathan Loaisiga, Tommy Kahnle, Ian Hamilton, and Scott Effross, the latter of whom didn’t pitch last year while recovering from Tommy John surgery. While they aim to shore up a couple more bullpen spots, there’s the consideration for a last-man role, potentially for someone with options like Nick Ramirez and Ron Marinaccio. Victor González, a left-handed pitcher acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the offseason, is without options.

Reports suggest the Yankees have entertained the idea of reuniting with left-handed free agent Wandy Peralta. Right-hander Danny Watson, who reached Double-A and boasted an impressive 11.78 K/9 last year, appears to have an outside chance at securing a role. Additionally, the Yankees signed right-hander Nick Burdi to a minor-league deal on Thursday, as reported by YES Network’s Jack Curry. While Burdi has a history of injuries, he possesses a triple-digit fastball and retains all three of his options.

Notably, the top three relievers in The Athletic’s list of the top 40 free agents—Josh Hader (No. 10), Jordan Hicks (No. 23), and Robert Stephenson (No. 29)—remain unsigned. The Yankees have expressed interest in Hicks, as previously reported by Rosenthal.

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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2 thoughts on “Who are the alternatives left for the Yankees after missing out on Yamamoto?

  1. Get Hicks and Hader. Starters only go through the opponents lineup twice. Then it’s the bullpen that takes over.

  2. They need to pivot to signing Blake Snell. He’s the best available AND he’s a leftie, which helps in Yankee Stadium. Then, in addition, if they could sign Monty, that would be great. But he’s bound to revert to what he’s always been, a reliable #4, not an ace. Trading for Cease would just further deplete their depth, so I don’t think it makes sense unless all else fails.

    Re-signing Peralta, and maybe giving Montas 1 year “prove it” deal, might also be worthwhile moves, but they’re not enough if they don’t first get a top-of-the-rotation starter.

    And finally, they should try to sign Josh Hader. It’s hard to win a World Series without a strong reliable closer and Clay Holmes, while good, has never quite been a perfect fit for that role.

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