With the MLB trade deadline fast approaching, New York Mets General Manager Billy Eppler is already setting his sights on the future.
According to reports from SNY, Eppler traveled to Japan earlier this year to scout Orix Buffaloes right-handed pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto.
The talented 25-year-old is expected to be posted for MLB teams this winter, and the Mets are among those closely monitoring his performance.
Yamamoto has been a standout pitcher in Japan, dominating the league with impressive statistics. This season alone, he boasts a remarkable 1.61 ERA with 110 strikeouts in 100 1/3 innings.
His extraordinary record has earned him four All-Star selections, two Pacific League MVP titles, and two Eiji Sawamura Awards, Japan’s equivalent of the Cy Young award.
Regarded as the best non-MLB prospect during the World Baseball Classic earlier this year, Yamamoto has a diverse arsenal of pitches that make him a formidable candidate for the major leagues.
His mid-90s fastball with excellent carry, a swing-and-miss splitter, and a high-spin curveball give him a strong command on the mound. However, questions remain about how his pitches will fare in the MLB setting, particularly his splitter.
Despite this, the success of Japanese pitchers like Shohei Ohtani, Yu Darvish, and Masahiro Tanaka in recent years has bolstered optimism about Yamamoto’s potential.
One concern surrounding Yamamoto is his physical size, listed at 5-foot-10 with a slight frame. However, modern MLB teams seem to be more accepting of shorter pitchers due to the increased emphasis on the vertical approach angle concept and the reduced workload expectations for starters.
Many scouts project Yamamoto as a #2 starter in big leagues, showcasing his immense potential.
Due to his age when posted, Yamamoto will not be subject to MLB’s international bonus rules and will be free to sign a contract of any size. The team that signs him will, however, need to pay the Buffaloes a posting fee based on the agreed contract.
The record-breaking seven-year, $155 million deal secured by Masahiro Tanaka with the New York Yankees serves as a reference point for such negotiations.
The Mets current pitching roster for 2024 includes four contracted starters: José Quintana, Max Scherzer, Kodai Senga, and Justin Verlander.
However, the latter two may be trade candidates as the deadline approaches. Regardless, a pitcher of Yamamoto’s caliber would be a valuable addition to the rotation.
Eppler has a track record of acquiring Japanese talent, having played a significant role in bringing Tanaka to the Yankees and enticing Ohtani to the Los Angeles Angels while serving as their GM.
In the previous offseason, he also signed Kodai Senga with the Mets.
While this experience does not guarantee the Mets success in landing Yamamoto, it demonstrates Eppler’s familiarity with the Japanese player market.
The upcoming free-agent class appears relatively thin, with Ohtani standing as the premier target. Consequently, Yamamoto could quickly become one of the most sought-after free agents in the league.
Should the Mets sign Yamamoto?
Do you think he’ll be as good as Tanaka, Darvish (and dare I say, Ohtani)?