As the official start to the MLB offseason draws near, Philadelphia Phillies fans may be starting to fret over the ability of the team to bring back starting pitcher Aaron Nola. The career Phillie is set to become a free agent and potentially cash in on the open market.
While president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has said that Nola is the team's top offseason priority, there's a chance general manager Sam Fuld and his staff won't be able to re-sign the 30-year-old hurler. They'll likely extend a qualifying offer, which he'll likely reject to test free agency. So then it comes down to whether the two sides can reach an agreement that will convince the career Philie to stick with the only big league team he's ever known.
If Nola leaves for another club, the Phillies will be active in the free agent market to fill the hole he'll leave behind in the rotation.
Should the Phillies pursue Japanese sensation Yoshinobu Yamamoto?
One intriguing free agent target the Phillies can pursue has been suggested as a good fit (subscription required) by Jim Bowden of The Athletic.
Japanese starting pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto will be a highly coveted free agent this offseason and one that the Phillies should be in on, especially if Nola leaves town.
The 25-year-old right-hander has been pitching for the Orix Buffaloes in the Japan Pacific League since 2017 as an 18-year-old.
Per Bowden, teams see Yamamoto as a No. 1 or No. 2 rotation piece.
How good is Yamamoto?
He just won his third straight Eiji Sawamura Award, Japan's equivalent of the Cy Young and won the pitching triple crown for the second consecutive year, posting the lowest ERA with the most strikeouts and wins. He went 16-6 with a 1.21 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP while logging 169 strikeouts in 164 innings.
You may have seen Yamamoto pitch in the World Baseball Classic earlier this year when he helped Japan win the international tournament. He pitched in two games (one start) and struck out 12 in 7 1/3 innings with a 2.45 ERA and a 0.82 WHIP.
According to Bowden: "His fastball lives in the mid-to-high 90s with a wipeout split-finger and a plus curveball as part of his five-pitch mix. He moves the ball west to east and north to south extremely well, too."
Who will the Phillies have to contend with for Yamamoto?
Obviously, the Phillies won't be the only team inquiring about Yamamoto's services. While Bowden lists the Phillies as one of the best fits for the Japanese import, he includes the Mets, Yankees, and Dodgers (no surprises there) ahead of the Fightins. He also includes the Rangers, Cardinals, Giants, Red Sox, and Cubs as fitting potential suitors.
Bowden predicts Yamamoto's contract to come in at seven years and worth $211 million.
While the Phillies weren't close on earlier negotiations with Nola, who reportedly was asking for an eight-year deal north of $200 million, they might be more inclined to loosen the purse strings for a younger pitcher with more upside who won't turn 26 until next summer.
As Bowden says, Yamamoto is "special and going to be paid like it."