The SF Giants' offseason has begun with heartbreak. Prized free agent target Shohei Ohtani chose the rival Los Angeles Dodgers on a historic and frustrating contract. Now, San Fransisco must find the best way to pivot as they seek to contend for the 2024 postseason. They are off to a good start after reportedly inking Jung-Hoo Lee to a six-year, $113 million pact.
Why the SF Giants should now prioritize signing Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto?
While the biggest name is now off the board, team President Farhan Zaidi and the rest of the front office now face enormous pressure to try and build a compelling roster. Thankfully, they have made at least one big move, but they need to add more pieces.
The franchise has already been linked to star hitters like Cody Bellinger and Matt Chapman. And they should steadfastly continue these pursuits. There are also several superstar hitters and pitchers that the club should seriously consider.
However, in light of recent developments, I am convinced that one signing now helps move momentum back in the Giants' direction more than any other: adding Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto.
What makes Yamamoto the priority over stars like Bellinger, Champan, and reigning Cy Young winner Blake Snell? After all, I recently stated that Snell should edge out the Japanese star on San Fransisco's wish list.
One key factor has shifted. The Giants are desperate to prove to the world, and perhaps themselves, that they are capable of landing a star-free agent. SF was in a position to land Ohtani, yet, he chose elsewhere. As did Aaron Judge. As have others.
While he ranks behind Ohtani, Yamamoto is a star. So much so that nearly half of the league has reportedly shown interest in his services. The back-to-back-to-back Sawamura Award winner (Japan’s equivalent of the Cy Young) is rumored to receive a contract eclipsing $300 million. In fact, the $400 million mark has begun to be thrown out as teams bid for his services.
The numbers are mind-boggling for a player who has never thrown an MLB pitch. And the Giants should move heaven and earth to ensure they are the team paying for him.
Signing Yamamoto would instantly shift the narrative that the Giants cannot land the big star. But the impact would go far beyond the PR boost. It would give the franchise a legitimate chance to compete with the juggernaut Dodgers, the reigning NL champion Diamondbacks, and the rest of the NL West gauntlet.
Yamamoto would immediately join incumbent ace Logan Webb at the top of the rotation. This would give San Fransisco one of the best 1-2 pitching punches in baseball, and provide the team with a clear identity.
This duo would also be positioned to lead the team far beyond 2024. Yamamoto, who is only 25 years old, would be a pillar for several years. Webb, only 27, is not scheduled to hit free agency until 2029. The tandem would be expensive. But the juice appears well worth the squeeze.
While the Giants would not pack as much offensive firepower as other teams, this ace tandem would give SF a puncher's chance during every start. Additionally, Webb and Yamamoto would be a fierce combination should the Giants crack the 2024 postseason field.
Who in the league could offer a better postseason pitching duo? The list in certainly short.
The Giants would boast a formidable top-of-the-rotation at a time when star pitching matters the most. The club would not be considered among the NL pennant favorites. However, it would give the Bay Area something it desperately craves: a fighting chance.
Zaidi and company have much work to do as they seek to right the offseason ship. And, in a post-Ohtani world, the solutions must come in the form of multiple signings/trades. However, none of the available free agents offer the team the opportunity to build a contender, boost franchise morale, and rewrite the offseason narrative like signing Yamamoto.
After making one big move, wow is the time to strike again!