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Around the Empire: Yankees news - 12/15/23

How to evaluate Asia’s best; just what makes Yoshi so good; PED-tainted sluggers on HoF ballot; revisiting Soto’s best stretch; McKinney to Bucs; Underwood aboard

Houston Astros v New York Yankees Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

New York Daily News | Gary Phillips: The terabytes of data available to MLB clubs has only increased in recent seasons, with Statcast and TrackMan information collected at minor league facilities and even most of the top college programs. That granular level hasn’t completely carried over to the the NPB and KBO, leaving more room for error in evaluating talent like Yoshinobu Yamamoto or Jung Hoo Lee. On top of that information gap — which is closing — differences between leagues like the ball type introduce variables that don’t exist in stateside ball.

FOX Sports | Jake Mintz: Speaking of Yamamoto, we’re in the middle of the bidding for NPB’s best hurler. With both Shohei Ohtani and Juan Soto no longer available, Yoshi becomes the most impactful player left, and his free agent contract will reflect that. Just what is it that makes teams so hungry for the right-hander, though? Based on pitch shape — one of those new tools NPB teams are incorporating — Yamamoto likely already boasts one of MLB’s best fastballs, and his pure stuff mixed with his age is driving his price up seemingly by the day.

FanGraphs | Jay Jaffe: Jay’s next look at the Hall of Fame class combines two of the best right-handed hitters of all time, and neither of them are likely to see enshrinement. Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez were both key players in the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry in the early part of this century, combined for 1,251 homers, and neither could crack 36 percent of the vote in last year’s round. PED issues loom over both sluggers, as they each served significant suspensions in MLB’s attempt to clean up the game. It’s a very uphill battle for each, even if they’re central to the game’s greatest rivalry. | David Adler: If Juan Soto merely repeats his 2023 production, the Yankees likely boast the best 1-2 punch in the American League. However, the offseason is the time for dreams, and Yankee fans can dream about Soto reliving his monster 2020 campaign over a full 162. The key, as Adler sees is, is being more aggressive on pitches in the zone, which he’ll likely see more of if he’s hitting in front of Aaron Judge.

MLB Trade Rumors | Darragh McDonald: After signing a minor league deal with the Yankees last week, veteran outfielder Billy McKinney was dealt for cash considerations to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Happy trails to Billy, as hopefully for him this will provide a more concrete path to an MLB job than he could find in the Bronx.

The last bit of news comes from a single tweet. Jon Heyman reported that former Pirates and Cubs right-hander Duane Underwood Jr. will join the Yankees in the spring on a minor league deal. He has a 4.63 ERA and 4.08 ERA across 144 games and 190.2 innings from 2018-23.