25-year-old aces with four plus pitches and a penchant for eating innings and racking up awards don't grow on trees. That's why Yoshinobu Yamamoto is a hot commodity in the free agent market, with as many as 20 teams with varying degrees of interest checking in. According to multiple sources, including Jon Morosi, the Mariners are interested in the three-time Sawamura Award (NPB version of the Cy Young).
"I think that he is, in a lot of respects, the most intriguing free-agent pitcher out there," Morosi said Monday during his weekly conversation with Seattle Sports' Wyman and Bob. "I actually think that there is a better chance the Mariners find a way to get Yamamoto, and then as a next domino effect trade a pitcher for a bat, than it would be to go out there and sign (Shohei) Ohtani right now. I think that's in a lot of ways the higher percentage play."- Morosi on M's interest in Yamamoto
While Mariner fans will always approach this time of year with skepticism and trepidation, some factors are in the team's favor. So, in the immortal words of Lloyd from Dumb and Dumber, "so you're telling me there's a chance."
There is a narrative that the Mariners are willing to pay top dollar for younger players who they can plug and play into the already solid core. At 25, Yamamoto plugs directly into Dipoto's timeline and side by side with Cal Raleigh, Jared Kelenic, Julio Rodriguez, and the other young arms (Gilbert, Kirby, Miller, Woo). Joining a rotation burgeoning with talent approaching or in their prime could be enticing for Yamamoto.
The Mariners have a track record of developing pitching, whether starters or relievers. Edwin Diaz, George Kirby, Logan Gilbert, and Matt Brash are all above-average hurlers who were far from their ceiling when the Mariners drafted or signed them initially. In the case of Kirby and Gilbert, they were strike throwers with projectability. Brash had the stuff, but in shorter stints, and we all know about Diaz's ascent from number three starter to All-Star closer. The point is the Mariners find traits and trends in their pitchers and help them become the most successful versions of themselves. For a pitcher who has conquered the second-best league in the world (NPB), you'd think this concept is something the analytically-driven Yamamoto would latch onto.
T-Mobile will never be mistaken for hitter-friendly destinations like Camden Yards, Dodger Stadium, Fenway Park, Globe Life Field, or Great American Ballpark. You'd think he'd want to maximize his chances for success by making half of his starts a T-Mobile where fly balls die in the gaps. Or at least we hope he would. The marine layer is a thing we've documented and discussed ad nauseam, but it is a beacon of hope for pitchers. A lot is riding on Yamamoto's MLB debut because he is the most celebrated Japanese pitching prospect since Mashiro Tanaka.
Lastly, Dipoto can lean into the rich Japanese history tied to the franchise. Of course, there is Ichiro, but if we narrow it down to pitchers, the list is plenty. Mac Suzuki, Shigetoshi Hasegawa, Masao Kida, Kaz Sazaki, and Hisashi Iwakuma all donned the Mariner teal at one point in their MLB careers. Throw in the fact that MLB insiders state that location (proximity to home) is essential to Yamamoto, which puts the Mariners firmly in the fight for his services.
Even the most skeptical Mariner fan can take these points and make the case that signing Yamamoto is a real possibility. especially since the team is a run-prevention one. Why not double or in this case roll out a quintet of starters that could neutralize the past two World Series winners, who happen to be in your division. Now, the key is to convince the diminutive right-hander, to sign on the dotted line, which might take a little more dialogue.