The Yankees head into the offseason with a clear need to upgrade their pitching staff. “Our starting rotation is an area that -- as you compare us to some other teams or many other teams -- we’re not as deep as we wanted to be or as productive as we wanted to be or even as healthy as we wanted to be,” said General Manager Brian Cashman. With a barren free agent class, the front office is going to have to be creative when reinforcing the rotation. While the trade market presents one set of opportunities, another solution might already reside in-house with Adam Warren.
When the Yankees re-acquired Warren in July, the front office praised his versatility. "If you need [Warren] as a starting pitcher, if you need him as a short man in the pen or a long man in the pen, he’s been at least successful here in all of those categories,” Cashman said. Although Warren was used exclusively out of the bullpen with the Yankees in 2016, that doesn’t rule out the possibility of using him in multiple roles next season. In fact, there’s a strong case to be made that he could solidify the back end of the starting rotation in 2017.
Warren, unlike other relievers, employs a full arsenal of pitches. He has a stater’s repertoire with four pitches that he uses regularly. Even when he’s cast as a short reliever, Warren works with all of his pitches. He isn’t one of those relievers who shelves his lesser weapons. His 2016 usage numbers backs this up.
Warren made just one start this year, a five-inning outing for the Cubs on July 6th. Given that he spent most of the time in the bullpen, his variety of pitches is notable Even if his changeup was just a “show-me” pitch, it bodes well that he still has a feel for the pitch. Transitioning into the rotation wouldn’t be that dramatic of an adjustment for him.
Also, while the Yankees have some starting pitching depth, the cast of characters isn’t exactly inspiring. Bryan Mitchell missed nearly the entire season; Chad Green made an early exit with an elbow injury; Luis Severino’s campaign as a starter was complete disaster; Luis Cessa gave up an inordinate amount of home runs. That’s a lot of question marks. Depth is nice to have, but based on last year’s performances, none of the aforementioned pitchers should be considered a lock for a rotation spot. Warren, with a career starting ERA of 3.88, is a known commodity. He could alleviate some of the uncertainty.
There are arguments against Warren moving to the rotation, of course. His 65.1 innings pitched in 2016 is the fewest in his major league career. He also struggled for periods of time, particularly with keeping the ball in the park. His 1.52 HR/9 doesn’t exactly engender confidence as a starting pitcher. Plus, at age 29, the sun might be setting on the starting pitcher experiment. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to let him take a shot at a starting role.
The Yankees are going to upgrade their starting rotation somehow. That much is inevitable. They should seriously consider asking Warren to come to spring training stretched out. He might not be a lasting piece in the rotation, but he could shore up the fifth starter role for the time being. It doesn’t hurt to try. If it doesn’t work, they still have a strong reliever option.