The Braves should be in the market for another starting pitcher this offseason. Whether it’s a trade and subsequent contract extension or a free agent deal, the club has to add to the rotation.
The White Sox and Brewers are potential trade partners; both clubs have frontline starting pitchers that should intrigue Alex Anthopoulos, but the lack of prospect capital could prove to be too difficult to overcome in such negotiations.
Jon Morosi has reported that the Braves are seen as “strong possibilities” for two free agents — Aaron Nola and Sonny Gray. Hell, the greatest free agent to ever hit the MLB market could be a possibility. Morosi also reported that Shohei Ohtani is “intrigued” by the possibility of joining the Braves.
Now, Ohtani wouldn’t be able to toe the rubber until at least 2025, but that lines up with Max Fried potentially leaving in free agency. It isn’t ideal in the short term because of Atlanta’s need to bolster the rotation today, but it’s clear Anthopoulos has options.
Ken Rosenthal reports the Braves are willing to spend on the right starting pitcher, so why couldn’t it be another Japanese superstar? Yoshinobu Yamamoto is coming to Major League Baseball, and Atlanta should absolutely be considered a potential landing spot.
He’s racked up an eye-popping 1.82 ERA and 0.935 WHIP across seven seasons with the Orix Buffaloes in the NPB, capping it off with a 1.16 ERA during the 2023 campaign and posting a ridiculous 176 strikeouts to only 28 walks.
Yamamoto’s slight frame — 5’10”, 176 pounds — has some concern, but Marcus Stroman has shown that shouldn’t stop clubs from showing interest. As far as stuff, he’s got it in spades. Yamamoto has excellent control of his mid-to-high 90s fastball that pairs with a devastating splitter along with an above-average curveball and cutter.
When Yu Darvish came over from the NPB, he posted a 1.99 ERA and 0.985 WHIP, and Yamamoto has recorded a higher strikeout rate and lower home run rate than his Japanese counterpart.
What makes Yamamoto even more intriguing is that he’s only 25 years old, which was the same age as Darvish when he came to the MLB. Darvish then posted a 3.27 ERA and 1.196 WHIP in his first three MLB seasons, with three All-Star selections and two top-10 Cy Young finishes. Unfortunately, he underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2015 campaign.
MLB Trade Rumors projects Yamamoto could get a nine-year deal worth $225 million. That would be atypical for the Braves, but he could be the exception. A $25 million AAV isn’t what will repel Alex Anthopoulos; it would be the term. With the threat of injuries, handing out that lengthy of a contract is always a risk, but if he pitches the way he did in Japan, it would be a bargain.
Photographer: Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire