Even after officially reuniting with Aaron Nola on a seven-year, $172MM deal earlier today, the Phillies are still in the hunt for Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Alex Coffey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. A source tells Coffey that the Phils will be “pretty aggressive” in going after the Japanese right-hander, “but if they don’t settle on the right price, they won’t push for a deal.”
The Athletic’s Matt Gelb concurs, hearing that the Phillies “will not be a top bidder on Yamamoto after finalizing the Nola deal.” Given how Yamamoto has gotten so much interest from multiple clubs and how MLBTR projects a 12-year, $225MM price tag for the righty’s first Major League contract, having any financial limits in place might alone halt Philadelphia’s chances. Gelb is also pessimistic about the Phillies’ chances due to the team’s relative lack of a history with Japanese players — in particular, no Japanese pitcher has ever appeared on Philadelphia’s MLB roster.
That said, the special circumstances of Yamamoto’s arrival in North American baseball has kept the Phillies interested on some level, and it could be that the club ultimately decides to make the splash on a special talent. Yamamoto is only 25 years old, and thus could be a rotation fixture for the better part of a decade if he pitches anything like he has over seven dominant seasons in Nippon Professional Baseball. Given how owner John Middleton and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski haven’t shown much compunction about spending to upgrade the Phillies’ roster, Philadelphia probably can’t truly be ruled out until Yamamoto has officially put pen to paper with another team.
Yamamoto is already an exception to the rest of the Phillies’ pitching plans for the offseason. Coffey writes that the team is still aiming to add at least one more rotation-caliber piece, and potentially two in the form of Yamamoto and a swingman or spot starter type that could be optioned back and forth from Triple-A. Dylan Covey and Matt Strahm are already on the roster in such roles, though Covey is out of minor league options.
This runs somewhat counter to Dombrowski’s statement earlier this week that the Phillies were only looking for one more starter, though Coffey’s framing of the other potential additions as depth pieces wouldn’t detract from the projected starting five of Nola, Zack Wheeler, Ranger Suarez, Taijuan Walker, and Cristopher Sanchez. If Yamamoto signs elsewhere, the Phillies will probably target only depth starters or multi-inning relievers going forward, as Coffey says “it’s unlikely” the team would pivot to another top-tier hurler.
In term of larger pitching expenditures, the Phillies might be saving some money for Wheeler, as Gelb writes that the team plans to discuss an extension at some point this offseason, if possibly closer to Spring Training. 2024 is the final season of the five-year, $118MM pact Wheeler signed during the 2019-20 offseason, and though Wheeler turns 34 in May, it’s easy to see why the Phillies are interested in a longer relationship. The righty has been excellent over his four years in Philadelphia, posting a 3.06 ERA over 629 1/3 innings and twice meriting top-six finishes in NL Cy Young voting.