Yoshinobu Yamamoto ‘potential wild card’ for Toronto Blue Jays

Photo credit:Yukihito Taguchi-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
2 months ago
It’s becoming increasingly apparent that the Toronto Blue Jays are ready to be big players in the Major League market this winter.
They’ve been linked to the belle of the ball, Shohei Ohtani, by people in not just Toronto but national markets, too.
But there’s another Japanese-born player that the Blue Jays could be players for: Yoshinobu Yamamoto.
Ross Atkins and his front office staff have seen lots of Yamamoto, as Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi noted in a Wednesday column that the player is “a potential wild card” for the team this offseason.
The Blue Jays did plenty of work on him. Atkins went over to Japan to see him in person multiple times. He may be the most widely sought-after free agent this winter,” Davidi opined. “If the Blue Jays can’t find the offensive impact they want in free agency and trade, they could try going all out for him and then use pitching surplus to gain a bat.”
Davidi’s thinking behind it is sound. The Jays have a deep roster pool, and many big-name bats are cropping up on the trade market, potentially none larger than San Diego Padres slugger Juan Soto.
San Diego was forced to take out a $50-million loan in September to address short-term cash flow, including making payroll, and industry chatter suggests the club is looking to slash it for the 2024 season. Six of their pitchers from 2023 — Blake Snell, Seth Lugo, Michael Wacha, Nick Martinez, Luis Garcia and Josh Hader — a sextuplet of hurlers who combined for 609.1 IP, 42 percent of their total innings from last season, are on the free agent market.
Toronto, meanwhile, has a surplus of pitching options at the big league levels, and minor levels, and while the team feels confident Alek Manoah will be back this season in the rotation, would they feel comfortable moving him for Soto? Playing around with baseballtradevalues.com, Manoah, Yosver Zulueta and shortstop Leo Jimenez equate to 23.9 value points — 0.1 points above Soto’s.
I’m not saying this is what a trade could look like, but purely looking at a ballparked value. Davidi noted in the above column the Jays, who have received calls about Manoah, “value him like the 2022 Cy Young Award finalist rather than the 2023 version who struggled severely and was twice optioned.”
In Yamamoto, meanwhile, is drawing plenty of attention. MLB Trade Rumors projected a nine-year, $225-million contract for the future ace, who brings with him a five-pitch mix which includes a mid-to-high 90s fastball, a split-finger, and a nasty curveball. He’s won the NPB’s pitching triple crown, with the top ERA, the most strikeouts and most wins, in Japan in the last two years. He’s as legit as they come, and would make an excellent rotation that much better.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.


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