The New York Mets need to add a top of the rotation starting pitcher this off-season.
Reports came out after the trade deadline that the Mets were looking at 2024 as more of a transition year and that they wouldn't be shopping at the top of the market for free agents. I never bought it and neither does Ken Rosenthal.
The Mets need to go after Yoshinobu Yamamoto this offseason
Rosenthal says “The Mets are going to sign free agents. What they are not going to do is sign future Hall of Fame pitchers in their late 30s or early 40s.” He specifically mentions Yoshinobu Yamamoto and that the Mets’ plan is to sign free agents whose trajectories line up with the young players they are developing for 2025 and beyond.
Yamamoto makes sense more than any other free agent because he is just 24 years old. He has won the Japanese version of the Cy Young in each of the last two seasons. As a legitimate top of the rotation starter and the youngest one available, he should be the Mets number one target.
Billy Eppler has scouted Yamamoto twice this year. Once at the World Baseball Classic and one speical trip to Japan during the season to get another look. Eppler also has had success in the past signing Japanese starting pitchers.
Scouts rave about Yamamoto’s potential in the big leagues, with a fastball that sits mid-90s and reaches the upper-90s, a “plus-plus” splitter, a “world class” curveball, a quick delivery to the plate and the athleticism to field his position well. Yamamoto is considered by scouts to be a full grade on the scouting scale of 20-80 above Kodai Senga, including having much better command than Senga.
Yamamoto has a 1.79 ERA in his career compared to Senga's 3.30 ERA in Japan. He is a different level of pitcher than Senga, and Senga has been excellent for the Mets.
Obviously, everyone wants Ohtani. He might be the greatest player of all time. He might also be unattainable for the Mets. Most rumors are that he will not sign with a team on the East Coast. When he first came over from Japan no East Coast team was a finalist to sign him.
Ohtani is also 5 years older than Yamamoto and will cost $500 plus million. Yamamoto is more affordable and better fits the Mets timeline. He will still be in his prime when the Mets top prospects reach the majors.
To sign Ohtani the Mets would have to give him a long term contract for huge money at a time he won't be producing at the same levels. Ohtani will probably get a contract of over ten years, taking him into his age 40 season. It would be hard to expect him to pitch and hit at above average rates for that long.
The Mets can be competitive next year if they can sign a top of the rotation starter like Yamamoto and another innings eater or two. They will need starting pitching in 2024 and into the future and Yamamoto is the best possible fit with a long run of success ahead of him.