And while the bidding will be intense for the services of a 25-year-old who could become one of the best pitchers in baseball upon his arrival in the majors, it shouldn't surprise anyone if the Mets come out on top.
Beyond Yamamoto, the boldest names on the free agent market are Aaron Nola and Blake Snell -- the latter of whom is about to win the NL Cy Young. But I don't think New York should pursue either pitcher, mostly because the bidding for them could reach six or seven years.
Nola has been mediocre two of the last three seasons, and Snell comes with a scary injury history and just two seasons out of eight where he's eclipsed 130 innings.
Jordan Montgomery is in the tier below Nola and Snell, but it feels like he's going to get paid to be a top of the rotation starter when he isn't one. For the middle of the rotation, Shota Imanaga, Lucas Giolito, and Sonny Gray feel like much better options.
As far as under the radar free agents the Mets can target for the No. 4 or No. 5 spot, here are five of them...
Yes, I know.
Severino was one of the worst pitchers in baseball in 2023, and his advanced numbers are among the ugliest I've ever seen. His home run rate was obscenely high (2.3 per nine) and his strikeout rate dropped significantly.
But it's possible Severino -- still only 29 years old -- just lost it and allowed things to spiral on him, and that the pitcher who had a 3.39 ERA and 1.12 WHIP with 10 strikeouts per nine over the first seven years of his career is still in there. We know the high-octane fastball is.
In addition to the disaster that was his performance this past season are serious concerns about Severino's health -- he pitched just 18 innings between 2019 and 2021 before tossing 102.0 in 2022 and 89.1 in 2023.
On a one-year deal, though (which is all the Mets and any other team should be willing to offer Severino), the upside potential is enormous.
Flaherty has dealt with shoulder issues and is coming off a poor 2023 -- when he had a 4.99 ERA and 1.58 WHIP across 144.1 innings for the Cardinals and Orioles.
But he is just two seasons removed from a year where he posted a 3.22 ERA and 1.06 WHIP while striking out 9.8 per nine -- and he is entering his age-28 season.
As is the case with Severino, interested teams really shouldn't be floating Flaherty anything more than a one-year, prove-it deal. If his offers exceed that, the Mets should bow out.
At one year, though, Flaherty -- who has a four-pitch mix and an average fastball velocity that has always hovered around 93 mph -- could be a nice bounce back candidate.
Unlike Severino and Flaherty, Maeda is not coming off a down year. And while 2023 was his first season back after undergoing Tommy John surgery, he doesn't come with the same injury concerns.
Because of the above, it seems likely that Maeda will get a multi-year deal -- something he's earned while pitching to a 3.92 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in seven big league seasons with the Dodgers and Twins.
One worry is Maeda's home run rate, which has been creeping up each of the last three seasons, but he has kept his walk rate low and misses plenty of bats.
Many of Maeda's advanced stats were also very good in 2023, with him being above average when it came to xERA, xBA, chase percentage, whiff percentage, strikeout rate, and walk rate.
His split finger (which he threw more than any other pitch) was especially nasty this past season, as batters hit just .204 with a .263 slugging percentage against it.
About to enter his age-37 season, Ryu is not the pitcher who finished in the top three in NL Cy Young award voting in 2019 and 2020, but he's still effective.
Ryu returned from Tommy John surgery this past August and tossed 52.0 innings over 11 starts, posting a 3.46 ERA and 1.28 WHIP.
In those 11 starts, Ryu allowed two earned runs or fewer eight times.
Ryu has never been anything close to overpowering, with him succeeding by adeptly executing his five-pitch mix and having terrific command. And his walk rate in 2023 (2.4 per nine) was right around his career average of 2.0.
The 28-year-old Lauer is the most under the radar of these names.
While he struggled in 2023 (pitching to a 6.56 ERA in 46.2 innings for the Brewers), he compiled a 4.11 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in five big league seasons to that point.
Lauer dealt with a shoulder injury in 2023, which could've had something to do with his average fastball velocity dipping from a career-high 93.4 on average in 2022 to a career-low 90.9 on average in 2023.
If Lauer's shoulder issues are behind him, he could be an interesting buy-low candidate.