The Yankees still need to add at least one more starting pitcher this winter, but Brian Cashman shouldn’t roll the dice on Yusei Kikuchi.
It’s perfectly natural for the Yankees to be tempted by the allure of adding Yusei Kikuchi to their pitching options this offseason. There’s a certain amount of mystique that accompanies Japanese pitchers heading to the big leagues. In this case, the Yankees need to stick with known quantities to fill out their rotation.
The franchise certainly isn’t any stranger to adding big name Japanese stars. Masahiro Tanaka is currently an integral part of Aaron Boone’s rotation. The organization would gladly add another pitcher of his caliber to the mix.
There’s also a ton of risk when it comes to acquiring arms from Japan. Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa both arrived in the Bronx with massive expectations. Neither provided the on-field production the Yankees envisioned when they were acquired.
Igawa might be the most accurate case study for Kikuchi. Not many scouts predicted him to be an ace when he made the jump to the Majors, but most believed he could successfully become a No. 2 or starter. That’s exactly what scouts say about Kikuchi.
The Yankees are already well positioned to have a very good rotation in 2019. Four of the spots are already spoken for by Tanaka, Luis Severino, James Paxton and CC Sabathia. The first three pitchers on that list might most accurately be classified as No. 2 starters. The same could also be said for Patrick Corbin who is believed to be the team’s top free agent pitching target at the moment.
The quantity of above average starters in the Bronx means that Cashman shouldn’t be taking on a ton of risk to acquire a pitcher who doesn’t have ace potential. That’s really the only thing that might be missing from Boone’s rotation once next season begins. Since Kikuchi doesn’t profile as a potential No. 1 guy, it’s wide for the Yankees to eschew the risk associated with signing him and focus on other targets.
This doesn’t mean Kikuchi can’t turn into a really valuable signing for another team. Assuming he does reach his projected ceiling, he could fill big holes for a number of other MLB teams. The only point here is that he doesn’t make sense for the Yankees. Cashman and company are welcome to keep tabs on Kikuchi, but they shouldn’t take part in any potential bidding war for the Japanese hurler.