Yankees plot the McKinney move as part of a grand strategy

Yankees captain Aaron Judge and Japanese pitcher Roki Sasaki
Inna Zeyger
Sunday December 17, 2023

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On Thursday night, the Yankees made a seemingly minor trade, sending Billy McKinney to the Pirates in exchange for international signing pool money. While this move might not grab headlines immediately, it takes on added significance in light of recent developments.

Japanese pitcher Roki Sasaki has expressed his intention to join MLB, creating a strategic opportunity for the Yankees. Although the deadline for Japanese players to be posted for the 2023 season has passed, Sasaki’s desire to enter the league suggests a potential impactful addition in the near future. Here the McKinney move brings a lot of significance for the Yankees.

The Yankees’ strategy to boost international pool money

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The question on many fans’ minds is the rationale behind the Yankees accumulating more international signing pool money. To understand this, one needs to consider the unique circumstances surrounding players like Roki Sasaki, akin to Shohei Ohtani’s situation when he entered MLB before turning 25. The intricacies of the Japanese posting system categorize players under 25 entering MLB as amateurs, distinct from regular major league free agents like Yoshinobu Yamamoto this offseason.

Consequently, the only method for teams to offer Sasaki a contract is through international signing pool money. This prompts curiosity about the Yankees’ strategy to bolster their international funds in anticipation of Sasaki potentially being posted.

Is it big enough to trade McKinney?

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The timing of Sasaki’s potential posting remains uncertain, hinging on a clause in his contract with the Chiba Lotte Marines, stipulating their obligation to post him upon his request. Although such a request has not been made yet, it appears highly probable in 2024. What makes the Yankees interested in acquiring Sasaki is his comparison to the Japanese baseball equivalent of Jacob deGrom. Sasaki shares a similar physical stature and consistently delivers pitches exceeding 100 mph as a starting pitcher.

Furthermore, he came close to achieving an extraordinary pitching feat in professional baseball history—nearly securing back-to-back perfect games. Regrettably, this opportunity was curtailed as his team, concerned about pitch count, opted to remove him prematurely.

Sasaki’s remarkable performance in the World Baseball Classic showcased his dominance, contributing significantly to Japan’s championship victory. If the Yankees manage to secure him next year and potentially sign Yamamoto now, they could assemble what might be the most formidable pitching staff in baseball history. With the addition of Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodon, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Roki Sasaki, and Nestor Cortes Jr., the lineup would be truly historic. Notably, acquiring Sasaki comes at a fraction of the cost compared to the first three pitchers mentioned.

This decision is a no-brainer for the Yankees, positioning them as prime contenders for years to come. Both Japanese aces would remain 27 or under, offering not only exceptional talent but also cost-effectiveness. If the trade involving Billy McKinney turns out to be a contributing factor in acquiring Sasaki, it could potentially be one of the most underrated and strategic moves in the team’s history.

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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One thought on “Yankees plot the McKinney move as part of a grand strategy

  1. While they are definitely interested in Sasaski, the McKinney trade was for 2023 international money that they used to sign C Justin Capellan.

    Yankees did rescind offer from two top 2024 signees in anticipation of Sasaki coming out later in 2024.

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