When Masahiro Tanaka decided to make the jump from Japan to MLB, the Yankees did what it took to land the star pitcher. Despite the concerns about the transition and the fear that came with Tanaka’s subsequent elbow injury, it’s hard to argue that Tanaka was anything but worth the investment.
The Yankees find themselves finally on a path to getting younger, but their rotation leaves a lot to be desired. The farm hasn’t really produced a young pitcher who can be a consistent presence in the rotation. Tanaka has one season left before he can opt out of his original contract, and it seems almost a given that he will. CC Sabathia is in the final year of his deal as well, and is a huge injury risk. Nathan Eovaldi is hurt, Michael Pineda is wildly inconsistent, and Luis Severino may yet end up a reliever.
With money coming off the books this offseason, it would be a great time for the Yankees to reload their rotation. The problem with that is that there are no good starting pitchers available on the free agent market. It’s really bad out there. Brian Cashman could use some of the improved farm to make a trade, but the kind of pitcher the Yankees need to get would come at a very high cost. Parting with a top prospect or likely multiple top prospects would sting.
The saving grace for a team in search of pitching may come in the form of Shohei Otani from Japan. The 22-year-old right-hander is the best pitcher to come out of Japan since Tanaka or Yu Darvish. The catch is that his team has not yet decided to post him yet. It’s not a sure thing that they will. However, if Otani is made available, the Yankees really need to do whatever it takes to get him.
Otani led his team to a championship this season, pitching to a 1.86 ERA. He can hit 100 mph on the radar gun and has a fastball that sits in the upper 90s range. He struck out 174 batters in 140 innings. Otani is also a very good hitter, hitting 22 home runs this past season. The ability to hit may draw him to an NL club, but it is overwhelmingly likely that he would be asked to give up the bat in order to focus on pitching in MLB. Otani said he is happy to be whatever is asked of him when it comes to pitching vs. hitting.
The Yankees have an opportunity to go out and get another potential ace without giving up prospects or having to tank in order to try and draft and develop one for the future. If there was a time for the team to go all in, this is it. There is no other player available this offseason who can help the Yankees more. That is, of course, assuming Otani is posted at some point this offseason.
People have been justifiably critical of Hal Steinbrenner’s reluctance to spend when it makes the most sense. He could have had either one of Max Scherzer or Jon Lester in free agency and passed them both up. He may not be able to afford to be that stubborn with Otani, if he is available, considering the state of the Yankees’ rotation.
Do you think the Yankees should do whatever it takes to land Otani if he is posted?