The New York Mets are in a difficult position regarding the trade deadline, and they should already be thinking about adjustments for the following season. In this sense, Andy Martino reported that Billy Eppler was scouting the Japanese pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto this year.
Eppler is an MLB executive with extensive experience and knowledge of the Japanese market, which leads one to think that interest in Yamamoto is serious. The 25-year-old pitcher has an ERA below 2.00 and a WHIP below 1.00 in his Nippon Professional Baseball league career.
Mets GM can use its expertise in the Japanese market to sign a potential ace
Yoshinobu Yamamoto may not have a ghost forkball, but his arsenal of pitches is complete and dominant. Yamamoto has been a four-time all-star in Japan, a two-time MVP, and a two-time winner of the Eiji Sawamura Award, the equivalent of MLB's Cy Young. The righty won the Triple Crown each of the last two seasons.
The Orix Buffaloes pitcher has enough command of his pitches to achieve enough swing-and-miss to swing hitters with a K/9 above 9.0 in his career. Yamamoto has a fastball that averages 95 mph, but his breaking balls are even more dominant.
Yamamoto features a high spin curveball and a high whiff spitter that may be this pitcher's most dominant pitch. Despite being a short pitcher (5'10''), his potential is a No. 1 rotation pitcher with an ace ceiling. His floor could fall to a No. 2-3 pitcher in a rotation.
Unlike Kodai Senga, who signed with the Mets this past offseason as a free agent, Yamamoto could sign for any amount without the team signing him being bound by international bonus rules, but if they would have to pay a fee to the Orix Buffaloes for the signature of their pitcher. Similarly, given his age and potential, Yamamoto could be saddled with a large multi-year contract.
In a thin free agency, as far as starters are concerned, Yamamoto can be a highly demanded target by teams. With the recent success of Japanese pitchers in MLB and Eppler's experience in that market, the Mets could sign Yamamoto to round out a rotation that could compete as one of baseball's best in 2024.