With weak starting pitching options in this year’s MLB free agent class, the New York Yankees should give the Japanese market another shot.
The New York Yankees are in a rebuilding year. Yes, seriously this time. This year, the Yankees are stacking up their squad to return to the days of endless victories and hoisting trophies.
Even though they have a group of talented youngsters making their way to the spotlight, the Yankees still have gaps to fill for 2017.
Without a big bat for the middle of the line-up and strong middle relief, the Yankees won’t have a chance next season. However, the biggest issue for the Yankees is the lack of reliable starting pitching.
That’s where Japan comes into play.
Recently, we’ve seen highlights of Japanese players performing incredible feats on the baseball field. The entertainment factor is extremely high, which means that strong play and monster home runs from Shohei Otani are likely to head stateside sooner rather than later.
The Yankees have had success with signing players from Japan in the past. Does Hideki Matsui ring a bell? Masahiro Tanaka? These guys were signed directly from Japan and immediately made an impact in the Bronx.
Their transitions were seamless. In Matsui’s first season in New York, he slugged a respectable .287/.353/.435. In his last season in the Bronx? He emerged as World Series MVP. Tanaka proved his reliability as a starting pitcher, compiling a 39-16 record in three seasons so far and shows no sign of slowing down.
While it is a small sample size for the Yankees, successful Japanese players are prominent throughout the MLB. Ichiro Suzuki, a future Hall of Famer, tops the list, but other names like Koji Uehara, Yu Darvish and Daisuke Matsuzaka have also remained fixtures in American baseball.
Free agents are easy to snag, but maybe a better long-term option would be to explore the Japanese market once again. It worked out for the Yankees in the past: they were able to pick up long-term guys who made a difference for them. Why not try it again?
Their last major deal in Japan was for Tanaka, which has paid off in dividends. Signing with the Yankees for $155 million over seven years proved to be well worth it to secure the staff ace. While Yankees fans worried that he wouldn’t live up to his potential, it turned out to be one of the best decisions they could have made.
With the case of Otani, the Yankees have been scouting his talents for four years. Now at 22 years old, Otani has developed into a superstar who has the potential to put the hurt on opponents in the MLB. Over the past four years, he has posted a 39-13 record with an impressive 2.49 ERA, using an arsenal of pitches.
Not only can he pitch, but he can crush the baseball himself. His .322 batting average in 107 games this season came with 22 home runs and 67 RBIs.
In 2014, at 20 years old, he faced the MLB All-Stars and recorded seven strikeouts. He can get the job done in the MLB.
He has the potential to truly transform a team into World Series contenders, so why shouldn’t the Yankees go after him if posted?Dominance translates into dominance, no matter what country Otani plays in.
Also, there are even more options available in Japan. Kohei Arihara, a sophomore righty and Otani’s teammate, has settled in, posting a 2.94 ERA and a 103/38 strikeout-to-walk ratio this past season.
25-year-old RHP Yuji Nishino boasts an approach similar to that of Uehara, who has found massive success with the Boston Red Sox. The point is, there are options. While they may not be proven yet in the MLB, the risk could be well worth it.
More decisions are waiting to be made when the Yankees finally get back out to Japan. It won’t hurt to simply take a look and see what the options are. And if they do find someone who might fit in the starting rotation for the Yankees, they should pull the trigger.
Part of rebuilding the New York Yankees means not being afraid to take some risks. They’ve got the phenom catcher, the big bat outfielder and the young studs at first base. They just need a more dominant starting rotation. And if the past means anything, Japan might be a good place to look.
Japanese players are making the news once again, which means the market is out there. It’s just a matter of whether or not the Yankees will take advantage of what there is on the other side of the world.