Yamamoto or no, Phils' rotation sturdy

December 17th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Todd Zolecki’s Phillies Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

The starting pitching market is moving with the Tyler Glasnow trade to the Dodgers finalized on Saturday.

Maybe Yoshinobu Yamamoto is next.

The Phillies met with Yamamoto last week. There have been plenty of stories and posts on social media about it, but often without context.

Would the Phils love Yamamoto in their rotation the next several seasons? Of course. But the Phillies entered the meeting with little expectation that they will sign him. Other teams simply have more money and more motivation to do it.

Since last month, it has been reported that the Phillies would need to shed payroll to fit Yamamato on their roster. That hasn’t changed. The Phils also would need Yamamoto’s price to drop, which isn’t expected. There is speculation that he will easily clear $200 million and possibly even $300 million.

The Phillies are simply not in position to beat the Yankees, Dodgers and Mets in a bidding war. But, sure, anything can happen.

If it doesn’t, the Phillies still like their rotation. They should. An argument can be made that the Dodgers, Yankees, Mets and everybody else in baseball is trying to get to the Phils’ level. The Phillies’ rotation last season had an MLB-best 17.7 WAR, according to FanGraphs. The Padres (fourth in MLB, 14.5), Cubs (eighth, 12.5), Braves (ninth, 11.7) and Marlins (10th, 11.5) rounded out the top five in the National League.

The Dodgers’ rotation ranked 21st with 9.1 WAR.

The Phillies plan to return the same five starters next season: Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Ranger Suárez, Taijuan Walker and Cristopher Sánchez. It is why FanGraphs projects them to have the best rotation again, with 15.6 WAR.

The Phils believe they can be even better than that. First, they plan on more innings from Suárez and Sánchez. Second, they expect a better version of Nola, who struggled the first several months of last season. And then there is Wheeler, who is one of the best pitchers in baseball and should be in line for a contract extension before Opening Day.

No question Glasnow will improve the Dodgers. No doubt Yamamoto would help, too. FanGraphs projects Glasnow (3.8) and Yamamoto (3.1) to be worth a combined 6.9 WAR next year. Even if Yamamoto signs with the Yankees or Mets, the Dodgers still have options to upgrade their rotation before Spring Training. Blake Snell (3.3 WAR) and Jordan Montgomery (3.2 WAR) haven’t signed with anybody yet. Corbin Burnes (3.8 WAR), Shane Bieber (2.9 WAR) and Dylan Cease (2.7 WAR) could be traded.

Right now, the Phillies aren’t expected to get any of them, but they shouldn’t need any of them to still have a top-five rotation in baseball.