Why Yoshinobu Yamamoto is a great fit on this roster and what possibilities it opens up for Seattle
Rumors are starting to circulate that Seattle has interest in acquiring the Japanese ace this winter. Would this acquisition make sense? What does it do for this roster build? Let's take a look.
The hot stove is finally heating up around the league, and one of the biggest names available is Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto.
From everything I can gather the Mariners are very interested in Yamamoto, along with about half the league. Multiple people have indicated Seattle’s interest in Yamamoto to me, and their interest has been confirmed by reputable national sources such as Jon Morosi.
The interest is there, but is the signing feasible? Let’s take a look.
Every team in baseball should be interested in acquiring the services of Yamamoto, for he is about as unique as it comes. At just 25 years old, he has already established himself as one of the most decorated players in NPB history. Yamamoto just became the second player ever to win the Sawamura Award three seasons in a row and collected two MVP awards during his time in the NPB.
The 25-year-old ace features a four-seam fastball that sits 93-96 MPH and a devastating splitter. Like many other Japanese arms before him, his arsenal is deep, also featuring a curveball, cutter, and sweeper. His curveball should stick, as well as either his slider or cutter. This would give the right-hander a legitimate four-pitch mix, positioning him to be an above-average number-two starter.
His frame is really the only concern, standing at just 5-10 and 176 pounds. He is much more similar to Masahiro Tanaka than the power profile of Kodai Senga, but his mechanics are smooth and repeatable, so my concern levels about his slight frame are low.
Yamamoto is certainly going to command a hefty price tag this winter, with many of the biggest spenders involved. I expect the Giants, Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, and Mets to be more than willing to spend big-time money on Yamamoto.
The 25-year-old right-hander should command much more than Senga did last offseason. Senga’s deal checked in at 5 years and 75 million dollars and now looks like it could be one of the biggest bargains of the last few acquisition cycles.
Yamamoto’s deal should easily surpass 200 million dollars, leaving many with doubt that the Mariners would actually entertain a contract this large. Boston, San Francisco, and both New York teams would likely be a lot more desperate to land him considering their lack of pitching.
Despite all of this I truly believe Seattle will absolutely be willing to shell out for Yamamoto for a variety of reasons.
We know the Mariners have had an interest in several Japanese players over the last few seasons. I believe Seattle sees a lot of value in exploring this market, something I have written about recently.
I believe the Mariners would be willing to put themselves in the mix because of his age and massive impact. At just 25 years old, a long-term contract wouldn’t devastate Seattle’s competitive window.
Signing Yamamoto would allow Seattle to boast what I would consider to be the best rotation in baseball, even with six pitchers in it. Yamamoto, Luis Castillo, George Kirby, Logan Gilbert, Bryan Woo, and Bryce Miller would be an absolutely devastating staff.
With the Japanese star on board, the options for improvement to the rest of the roster feel unlimited. The Mariners could choose to deal from their rotation or just deal from their loaded prospect ranks to add hitters to fill out the lineup.
Imagine an offseason where Seattle signs Yamamoto, and then deals Bryce Miller to Tampa for Randy Arozarena or Yandy Diaz. Adding a high-end pitcher like Yamamoto would no doubt make the Mariners more comfortable dealing from their strengths, especially when it seems doubtful they could lure a big-time free-agent hitter to Seattle.
Even though it may seem counterintuitive at first, adding a pitcher like Yamamoto or even hometown boy Blake Snell gives Seattle their best opportunity to improve in a meaningful way this offseason. Japanese left-hander Shōta Imanaga also fits this bill.
Without a meaningful starting pitcher acquisition I wouldn’t feel comfortable trading from their staff, especially with the amount of injuries we saw across the league last year.
Seattle won’t likely be able to lure a big-name free-agent hitter because of the challenge it creates for hitters, but the inverse is also true. T-Mobile Park is the best environment in baseball for pitchers. The solution? Spend on pitchers and trade for hitters.
The history of Japanese baseball in Seattle, the environment for pitchers, and the immediate fit in the best six-man rotation in baseball make the Mariners a sneaky fit that the national media will neglect.
If the offer Jerry Dipoto and the Seattle front office can put together is comparable to that of their big market foes, you have to assume the star pitcher would consider it. You have to assume if John Stanton would spend on a free agent it would be more likely to be one that could carry enough ad revenue, ticket sales and merchandise to pay for itself.
Sign Yoshinobu Yamamoto and prosper. GOMS.
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