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In an offseason in which they landed the great Juan Soto, the New York Yankees were dealt a major blow Thursday night. Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto agreed to a record 12-year, $325 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. It is the largest pitching contract in baseball history. Add in the $50 million posting fee and Yamamoto is a $375 million investment all told.

The Yankees are said to have bid $300 million for Yamamoto, a pitcher they coveted and at times expressed confidence they would sign. Instead, they now have to pivot to an uninspiring free agent class to reinforce a pitching staff that was thinned by the Soto trade, among other things. At the moment, New York's starting rotation looks something like this:

  1. RHP Gerrit Cole (amazing)
  2. LHP Carlos Rodón (6.85 ERA around injuries in 2023)
  3. LHP Nestor Cortes (4.97 ERA around injured in 2023)
  4. RHP Clarke Schmidt (set a new career high by 66 innings in 2023)
  5. RHP Luis Gil (missed 2023 with Tommy John surgery)
  6. RHP Clayton Beeter (4.94 ERA and 5.6 BB/9 in Triple-A in 2023)
  7. RHP Will Warren (not on 40-man roster)

There's Cole, the reigning Cy Young winner and arguably the best pitcher in the sport, and then a whole lot of uncertainty. As talented as he is, Yamamoto comes with his own red flags, though he would have been a significant addition to a rotation that lacks depth more than potential impact. The Yankees have a very boom-or-busty rotation behind Cole.

Reigning NL Cy Young winner Blake Snell and former Yankee Jordan Montgomery are, pretty clearly, the two best unsigned free agent starters, and both are on the wrong side of 30. Ditto Japanese lefty Shota Imanaga and veteran sinkerballer Marcus Stroman. Lucas Giolito will play most of next season at age 29. He also had a 4.88 ERA and allowed 41 home runs in 2023.

The trade market offers rentals Shane Bieber and Corbin Burnes, and Dylan Cease's two years of control. The Yankees still have several desirable trade chips -- outfielder Spencer Jones and righties Warren and Chase Hampton chief among them -- though they already dipped deep into their farm system with the Soto trade. Do they want to deplete the system further?

At this point though, what other options do the Yankees have? Soto will be a free agent next offseason and, as a top Scott Boras client, he will likely not sign an extension. If Soto returns to the Yankees in 2025, it will be because they won a free agent bidding war. Cole turned 33 in September and Aaron Judge turns 32 in April. The Yankees have to be all-in on 2024, otherwise what was the point of trading for Soto?

In all likelihood a Snell or Montgomery signing would be regrettable, most long-term contracts for over-30 free agents are, but they are the best bets to provide impact in 2024. Are the Yankees really going to sweat trading more prospects for Burnes or Cease or whoever when the window on the World Series window with Cole and Judge is closing? They shouldn't.

And the thing is, the Yankees need more beyond someone the fill the rotation spot that was earmarked for Yamamoto. The club's bullpen currently looks something like this:

The Yankees are very good at pulling quality relievers out of nowhere -- go look at Hamilton's 2023 numbers -- and we have to assume they'll do it again next year, because they seem to do it every year. Recent minor-league signing Yerry De Los Santos has some interesting pitch traits, namely his heavy sinker. Perhaps he'll be 2024's breakout reliever.

Point is though, the Yankees could use help in the bullpen too, especially since Kahnle (shoulder) and Loáisiga (elbow) finished this past season on the injured list, and Effross missed the season with Tommy John surgery. The Yankees have 16 pitchers on their 40-man roster, only three over the 13-pitcher MLB roster limit, and several are coming back from major injuries. They need depth.

Third base is a bit unsettled, otherwise the position player crew is set. The Yankees ranked 25th in runs and 24th in OPS in 2023. Soto alone won't fix that. The Yankees need Judge and Anthony Rizzo to stay healthy, Giancarlo Stanton to bounce back, Anthony Volpe to take a step forward, and Austin Wells to establish himself. Without that, the jig is up, Yamamoto or no Yamamoto. The Yankees have done what they can offensively.

Adding depth and impact to the pitching staff is the top priority between now and spring training. Now that the Yankees have missed out on Yamamoto, they have to pivot to a less than desirable free agent market and/or give up more of the farm system. With Cole and Judge in their 30s and Soto only guaranteed to wear pinstripes for a year, this is no time for half-measures. The Yankees will have to make a move(s) that makes them uncomfortable, because uncomfortable moves are all that's left.