The SF Giants expected to be firm players for Yoshinobu Yamamoto this offseason. However, opposing teams think the Giants "might have an edge" in recruiting Yamamoto according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.
SF Giants "might have an edge" in Yoshinobu Yamamoto sweepstakes
The Giants have been in the market for a frontline starter this winter and Yamamoto is at the top of the market. We recently looked at why the NPB star would be a better fit than Blake Snell, who is arguably the next best option.
The first reason is age. Yamamoto is entering his age-25 season in 2024, meaning that he has a lot of peak years in front of him. On the other hand, Snell will be in his age-31 season next year. Snell could certainly be good throughout the entirety of his next deal.
However, in terms of managing risks, you expect the younger pitcher to be better for longer. Teams just do not like paying for pitchers who are in their 30's. They will do it but are hesitant. Both players will likely command a deal in excess of $200 million. Plus, it is not easy to get younger in free agency, and adding a player as young as Yamamoto is a rare opportunity to do so.
For the Giants, the right-handed hurler would be younger than Logan Webb and Tristan Beck, but only three years older than Kyle Harrison.
Slusser does not elaborate on what that edge might be. She might know or this is just the impression that opposing teams are sensing regarding the Giants' recruitment of Yamamoto. So, what might that edge be?
Of course, if the Giants are motivated to not be outbid for someone like Yamamoto, that could be an advantage. Another factor could be the ballpark.
The righty pitcher is probably not going to rack up strikeouts in a similar fashion as someone like Snell or Spencer Strider. The NPB is a contact-heavy league relative to the majors, but Yamamoto recorded a 9.2 K/9 in seven NPB seasons. He was slightly above that mark with a 9.3 K/9 in 171 innings this past season. Solid numbers, but not necessarily someone who is expected to rack up high strikeout totals each start.
A lower strikeout rate means more balls put into play. Oracle Park remains one of the tougher environments for hitters according to Statcast. You probably did not need a metric to confirm that if you watch the games. However, the expansive dimensions, tough winds, and colder game temperatures tend to hurt a ball's carry.
It is a tough environment for hitters, but a much more favorable environment for pitchers. And, if someone like Yamamoto wants to re-enter free agency a few years down the road, it is tough to find a better stadium to build a track record than Oracle Park.
MLB Trade Rumors predicts that he could land a deal of nine years and $225 million. It is possible and likely that this type of deal would include an opt-out clause to give him a chance to earn a second payday. Pitching in an environment that is tough on hitters should help him in that scenario.
The Winter Meetings began on Sunday. And, Yamamoto is nearly two weeks through his negotiating window. There is no indication that he will sign by the end of the Winter Meetings, but the rumors will start to heat up. For the Giants, this is an interesting way to start the festivities.