Why Yoshinobu Yamamoto should not be priority for the Yankees

With what looked to be a season of high promise for the Yankees, it took a dramatic turn, resulting in what will be the first time missing the postseason since 2016. Expectations were through the roof for the 2023 season, but a combination of injuries and poor play turned this season into a massive disappointment.

Everything that could have gone wrong for the Yankees did, and sadly ended up wasting another year of Judge’s prime and what looks to be Cole’s first Cy Young award-winning season. The rotation was supposed to be the best in the league with five above-average arms, but after Cole, there were no consistent strong starts.

Rodon’s first year of the contract was a disaster, Cortes was nowhere to be found, Severino seemed to give up three or more runs in the first inning every start, and Montas is in the discussion for the worst trade in the Brian Cashman era. Clarke Schmidt somehow ended the season as the number two starter, as his 93 ERA+ and 4.40 FIP tell you everything you need to know about how poor the rotation was.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto will make his MLB debut in 2024, and with Cashman traveling to Japan to watch the 25-year-old phenom pitch, you can expect to see the Yankees in every rumor talking about which team he will sign with. Despite all the rotation concerns the Yankees dealt with in 2023, Yamamoto should not be the number-one target in free agency.

The only thing that was harder to watch than the Yankees rotation on days where Cole did not take the mound was watching the lineup try to score enough runs to win games. Only Oakland has a worse team batting average than the Yankees in 2023, also finishing in the lower third of the league in runs per game, hits, stolen bases, OBP, SLG, OPS, and OPS+.

Simply put, the offense was horrific this season.

Yamamoto would be a massive upgrade in the rotation with Montas and Severino set to hit free agency, and he will certainly be in play if the Yankees plan to invest more money into the rotation. However, there are more holes on the roster to fill first.

With the unfortunate news of Jasson Dominguez getting Tommy John surgery, there remains a massive hole in center field going into 2024. Besides Judge's occasional starts in center field, there has been almost no offensive production out of the position.

Free agency is loaded with pitchers this offseason, so the Yankees cannot afford to miss out on a premier bat.

Cody Bellinger is having a rebound season with the Cubs and checks every box for the Yankees. The former MVP would instantly become the biggest left-handed threat for a team that has featured almost all right-handed hitters. Bellinger’s defensive ability puts him in the upper echelon of center fielders across the league and would fill one of the biggest needs going into 2024.

Third base has been a point of concern for the Yankees, and if the team elects to keep Peraza and Cabrera out of a corner infield spot, Matt Chapman could become a player of interest. Chapman’s elite defensive skills will always be his trademark, but his bat would provide a powerful punch towards the bottom of the lineup. With an OPS and wRC+ of .754 and 110, respectively, His strikeout rate would be a cause for concern as the Yankees currently have the 13th most strikeouts in the league.

With recent news of the Padres planning to move around the front office and bring their payroll under $200 million, the likelihood of Juan Soto getting traded again becomes even more likely. The Yankees have the farm system to make a trade for the 24-year-old, and slotting him behind Judge in the lineup for the next 8-10 years has the potential to be one of the most dangerous combos in all of baseball.

Soto has been one of the top hitters in the league since his debut in 2018, and if the Yankees were able to acquire him, signing him to an extension would be much more beneficial to the team rather than spending big on another starting pitcher.

With the emergence of King becoming a solid option as a starter, a rotation of Cole, Rodon, Cortes, Schmidt, and King still has the potential to be one of the best in baseball, barring injuries. It seemed that the lineup was never able to get consistent production in 2023, and even though rotation depth could prove to be an issue, there are many more causes for concern in the lineup to address.

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