The 2023 offseason will be centered around one man, Shohei Ohtani. The Los Angeles Angels hope to bring Ohtani back to Anaheim for a long time, but who knows how realistic that is? While Ohtani is the main prize, another Japanese phenom has taken some spotlight and is set to make a ton of money in free agency.
Yoshinobu Yamamoto has been one of, if not the best pitcher in Japan since debuting seven years ago and will now hit the free agency market this offseason. The right-hander is expected to come to the US and will have a ton of suitors for him.
Jon Heyman of the New York Post listed eleven teams that have scouted Yamamoto and the Angels are not among the ten. Virtually every other big market team is. Heyman believes that the Angels' pursuit of trying to retain Ohtani could be what knocks them out of the Yamamoto sweepstakes.
While Shohei should absolutely be the team's number one target, having no backup plan or seemingly showing no willingness to spend big money on any other free agent is a big problem. Especially when Yamamoto appears to be a slam dunk.
LA Angels not pursuing Yoshinobu Yamamoto is the latest knock on Arte Moreno
The Angels pursuing Ohtani is not the problem. The lack of a backup plan is the problem. Ohtani should be their number one target, but there's no reason Yamamoto shouldn't be 1A.
First of all, this man is only 25 years old. Virtually no impact free agent hits the market at such a young age making him extremely valuable. The Angels can sign him to a seven or eight-year deal and he'd still be in his prime when the contract expires. Other frontline starting pitchers in free agency like Aaron Nola, Blake Snell, Clayton Kershaw, Sonny Gray, Marcus Stroman and Jordan Montgomery are all over the age of 30.
If Ohtani leaves, the goal of this Angels team will shift. It's impossible to proclaim this team as a team trying to compete when they won just 73 games WITH Ohtani. Fortunately, Yamamoto is young enough to grow with the rest of this Angels bunch. He'd fit in perfectly in a young rotation that consists of 26-year-old Patrick Sandoval and 24-year-old Reid Detmers.
Yamamoto went 16-6 this season in Japan with a 1.21 ERA. He struck out 169 batters in 164 innings pitched on his way to a Triple Crown. This guy has been nothing short of dominant and deserves every penny he's going to get.
Outside of Ohtani this might be the second-most valuable free agent out there. His youth and dominance in Japan makes him such an intriguing addition. Seeing the Angels nowhere near any Yamamoto rumors is frustrating for a big market team that should be drooling at the opportunity to add a player like this.
It's possible Yamamoto chooses to go elsewhere even if the Angels pursue him. That's out of their control. The fact that they don't seem prepared to go to the same lengths as every other big market team is what's frustrating.