NEW YORK -- The Mets continued their offseason-long task of building up their starting pitching depth, acquiring right-handed starter Jordan Yamamoto from the Marlins for Minor League infielder Federico Polanco on Monday.
Yamamoto joins Joey Lucchesi, Sean Reid-Foley, Yennsy Díaz, Jerad Eickhoff and others as depth acquisitions with Major League experience -- even if the results of that experience have been checkered. Following a promising rookie season in 2019 in which he posted a 4.46 ERA over 15 starts, Yamamoto produced an 18.26 mark over four outing in 2020. More than half the damage occurred in one game, with Yamamoto allowing 12 earned runs against the Braves on Sept. 9.
Although homers were the most significant bugaboo for Yamamoto in his small 2020 sample, control has been a more significant issue throughout his young career. Yamamoto has issued 4.3 walks per nine innings as a big leaguer, counteracting his strong strikeout rate (9.5 per nine).
With a roster crunch in Miami, the Marlins designated Yamamoto -- who was originally part of the trade that sent Christian Yelich to Milwaukee -- for assignment Wednesday. To make room for him on their own 40-man roster, the Mets DFA’d infielder Robel García.
In New York, the Mets are banking on improvement from Yamamoto, a native Hawaiian who is one of two pitchers since 1900 to win his first three career starts while allowing seven or fewer total hits in those victories. Yamamoto does not possess an overpowering arsenal, with a fastball that hovers around 90 mph. But that four-seamer rates in the 83rd percentile in MLB in spin rate, and Yamamoto features five other distinct pitches, including a slider that has been key to his success.
Also of significance is the fact that Yamamoto has accessible Major League options. If Yamamoto does not break camp with the Mets, they can option him to Triple-A Syracuse without penalty.
The move is designed to give the Mets something they lacked a year ago: significant starting pitching depth. Injuries and other issues forced the Mets to scramble in 2020, stretching out Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman as starters on the fly, relying on untested youngsters, and using 10 starters in 60 games. The Mets hope that won’t be the case this year. On paper, the Mets’ Opening Day rotation is as follows:
- Jacob deGrom
- Marcus Stroman
- Carlos Carrasco
- David Peterson
- Joey Lucchesi
Noah Syndergaard will join that group once he returns from Tommy John surgery around midsummer. Lugo could also play a role, though the organization seems to prefer him in the bullpen. And the Mets may still acquire another starter -- they’ve been linked to Trevor Bauer all offseason -- to push either Peterson or Lucchesi to a lesser role.
Beyond those names, the Mets have spent their winter accumulating depth. In exchange for Steven Matz, they received three pitchers from the Blue Jays, including two with big-league experience: Reid-Foley and Díaz. Eickhoff and Harol Gonzalez were Minor League signings who will be in camp. The team also inked Sam McWilliams to a Major League deal early in the offseason; although Mets officials are intrigued by what McWilliams can do as a reliever, he’s been a starter for most of his career. So have Corey Oswalt, Franklyn Kilome and Thomas Szapucki, three young pitchers who could contribute.
Yamamoto is the latest to join that mix. To acquire him, the Mets gave up Polanco, a 19-year-old infielder who did not rank among their Top 30 prospects. Polanco has played just 14 official games outside of his native Dominican Republic.