Suk-Min Yoon is finally coming to America in 2014 and as a free agent in Korea he has the ability to negotiate with any team he chooses. He could be trying out for teams over the offseason and is reportedly looking for a guaranteed spot in the rotation. His agent, Scott Boras, has publicly mentioned that he has spoken to Hal Steinbrenner about his client, but is it a perfect fit, or anything even close?
The Yankees have three openings in their rotation, but is also hoping to sign Masahiro Tanaka and bring back Hiroki Kuroda. The 27-year-old right-hander comes to MLB with a 3.21 ERA, 2.98 FIP, 8.65 K/9, 2.67 BB/9, 7.77 H/9, and a 0.5 HR/9 between 2009 and 2012. In that time he won the KBO MVP and pitching triple crown in 2011 along with two of his three total All-Star Game selections. Unfortunately, he had a disastrous 2013 season after injuring his shoulder in the World Baseball Classic and finishing the KBO season with an ERA over 4 in only 87 innings.
When comparing Suk-Min Yoon with fellow Korean pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu, he came out on top up until the 2012 season, when Yoon took a step back from his outstanding 2011 and Ryu improved. Ryu was also much more of a workhorse than Yoon ever was, having pitched two seasons of 200+ innings, while Yoon only pitched as high as 172.1 innings once. His small stature and history of shoulder injuries (a rotator cuff injury in 2010 that didn't require surgery and the aforementioned WBC injury) creates a lot of questions about his durability.
He pitches in the mid-90s and throws a fastball, a hard slider, and changeup that has been described by scouts as above-average. He likely doesn't project as much more than a backend starter, but those can be useful too. He won't get close to Ryu's six-year $36 million deal, but he could potentially make the same $3 to $4 million a year that Ryu will make in his first three seasons. That would be a bargain for a starter, especially if the Yankees could use the remaining money in their budget on other issues.
The thing is that most scouts don't know if he can make it as a starter. The Yankees need relievers too and if he's healthy and willing to take on the role of a reliever, he could instantly play a big part in the backend of the bullpen in 2014. Yoon has the command to at least make it in the bullpen and the combination of heightened velocity and a biting slider could turn him into a closer-type. Who knows what his contract would look like at that point, but even if it was a $3 to $4 million deal it will likely be less than what they're going to end up paying David Robertson in arbitration.
Of course, this all comes down to how serious he is about only being a starter, whether or not teams like the Twins and Mariners offer a better contract with the chance to start, and if he'd be ok taking a reliever role and not being the closer. That's a lot of ifs, but the Yankees should kick the tires and see what he can do.