While signing Shoehi Ohtani was never a realistic option for Brian Cashman and the New York Yankees, it would have been a huge upgrade for the team's pitching staff. With Alex Verdugo and Juan Soto entering the fold, the offense is relatively set, and now Cashman's main focus should be pitching. There is still plenty of talent to be had on the market.
New York Yankees target: Yoshinobu Yamamoto
Arguably the top non-Ohtani pitching free agent available, Yoshinobu Yamamoto is a 25-year-old right-handed pitcher from Japan. Yamamoto had spent the past seven seasons pitching for the Orix Buffaloes in the Nippon Professional Baseball League (NPB). Yamamoto will be leaving Japan as one of the more decorated pitchers in recent memory, winning three MVP awards, three Triple Crowns, and as a five time All-Star. The slender righty throws a fastball in the upper 90s, with a dominant splitter and strong offspeed pitches, buoyed by elite command.
On nearly any team, Yamamoto would slide in as an ace, but with Gerrit Cole employed by the Yankees, Yamamoto would be the number two behind Cole. FanGraphs' Eric Longenhagen compared Yamamoto to peak Zack Greinke, who won a Cy Young in 2009.
The issue with Yamamoto will come down to financials. Depending on the time commitment, Yamamoto will likely command north of $200 million, while the Yankees have already added significant payroll this offseason. If the money is not an issue, Yamamoto would help form a dominant 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation.
New York Yankees target: Marcus Stroman
After a disaster in 2018, Stroman has been amongst the most consistent starters in the league, never pitching to higher than a 3.95 ERA, which came in 2023. Stroman's fastball velocity has slowly ticked down in recent years, but he has never been a power pitcher, giving him the chance to age rather gracefully. Both Stroman's slurve and cutter were worth positive four run value, according to Baseball Savant, and the native New Yorker has demonstrated an ability to limit hard contact.
Stroman's time in New York with the crosstown Mets was not always smooth sailing, so that may deter Cashman from making a strong enough offer. In addition, Stroman will turn 33 in the beginning of the 2024 season, which also limits the long-term commitment teams will be making. Three to five years at around Sonny Gray's AAV ($25 million) seems like a reasonable get for Stroman.
New York Yankees target: Michael Wacha
Wacha has been a bit of a nomad recently, but is still just 32 years old, younger than Stroman, despite having over a year more of service time. Since leaving St. Louis after the 2019 season, Wacha has played for four teams in as many seasons, with only the last two being successful. With Boston in 2022 and San Diego in 2023, Wacha pitched to sub 4.00 ERAs, although his 2022 FIP indicates he was the benefactor of some batted ball luck.
The good news is Wacha's command is at least above-average. The righty owns a 7.6 percent career walk rate, which is nearly a full percentage point below MLB average. Like Stroman, Wacha does not rely on elite velocity, averaging just 92.3 mph on fastballs. Both Wacha's changeup and four-seam fastball generated positive run values of 12, according to Baseball Savant. According to Eno Sarris' Stuff+ model, none of Wacha's pitches rank above-average other than his changeup, but his Location+ of 102 ranked tied for sixth on the Padres' staff.
An uncertain future would likely push Wacha's AAV south of $20 million, and FanGraphs' Crowd Sourcing series pegs Wacha's contract at three years for $39 million. For that figure, Cashman may be intriqued.