With Brian Bruney and Phil Coke exiled to Washington and Detroit and Phil Hughes slotted for the starting rotation, the Yanks’ bullpen is in flux right now. Mariano Rivera, Damaso Marte, David Robertson, Al Aceves and probably Chad Gaudin are guaranteed to hold down five of the spots with a variety of young arms ticketed for some Spring Training auditions. In an effort to secure one of the open slots, the Yankees may be looking to Japan. According to Yakyu Baka, the Yanks are one of at least seven teams interested in Ryota Igarashi.
Igarashi is a 30-year-old reliever, and NPB Tracker called him “the top free agent coming out of Japan” earlier this season. He sports a mid-90s fastball but has had some command problems over the course of his career. He missed 2007 to Tommy John surgery but has rebounded nicely over the last two seasons, striking out 86 in 97.1 innings. Prior to 2009, he had struck out 586 in 516.1 innings while walking 221. Video of a mid-decade appearance is available here on YouTube.
While Yankee fans are wary of Japanese pitchers after the Kei Igawa debacle, Japanese relievers have fared better than starters, and Igarashi’s stuff translates nicely to a Major League bullpen. Igarashi could be a good pick up for the team. He would offer them a live arm for their bullpen and probably at the right price as well. Yakyu Baka reports that Igarashi wants a two-year deal at $2-$3 million per, and for that money, the Yanks should kick the tires on this one.