As Jason put it a few days ago, the Yankees need starting pitching. Other than CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, and Michael Pineda, there is not a single starting pitcher you could comfortably slot into the starting rotation. There are a litany of maybes: Luis Severino, Luis Cessa, Adam Warren, Chad Green, and Bryan Mitchell will likely get a shot at the final two spots, but there’s a good chance all of them will be better in the bullpen.
This is a 2017 issue, and there may be some short-term solutions. As Jason said, Tyson Ross, Jason Hammel, Doug Fister, and Nick Tepesch are all possible options, albeit uncertain ones. I agree with many that Jason Hammel would be the best bet; it’s just that the Yankees don’t want to spend money, and they don’t want to give Hammel more than a one-year contract.
I understand that. If the Yankees want to just make a contest of it without spending money, then their work is likely done for the winter. But, let’s be clear: no matter what they do, it still does not solve their issue that extends beyond 2017.
Here is who is slotted into the 2018 rotation: no one. If Masahiro Tanaka opts out of his contract, which he likely will if he doesn’t get injured, then he, Michael Pineda, and CC Sabathia will be off the roster come next year. That means that every single starting spot is a question mark, and that doesn’t look good for a team that’s trying to vault themselves out of mediocrity.
Luckily, there are some options on the free agent market. With just $79.2 million committed in the case Tanaka opts out, here are the options available next year, with their stats from 2014-2016:
Of those, who is realistically worth it? My guess would be Jake Arrieta, Tanaka, Johnny Cueto (if he opts out), and Yu Darvish. Even if you theoretically signed all of them, you still haven’t filled a rotation! That’s a big red flag.
A major storyline over the next calendar year is how the organization gears its staff towards the future. That means that free agents can’t be the only answer, because it’s literally impossible. This makes the lack of a push towards Jose Quintana, for example, troubling.
I get that the Yankees don’t want to give up their top prospects, but having Quintana would have given the Yankees a spot for possibly the next four years at such a low cost. The Yankees could re-sign Tanaka, sign another elite starter, and still have Quintana. That essentially takes the stress off the back-end of the rotation.
So, if you don’t want to trade your elite prospects, and you don’t want to sign elite free agents because you’re trying to stop committing an excess of money and years, then what is really your option? It means free agent and trade half-measures, and it means just waiting until prospects pan out. And let’s be honest: the Yankees just don’t have a good track record in developing starting pitching.
James Kaprielian is a ways off with his injury; Luis Severino is a big question mark; Dillon Tate needs to develop, as does Justus Sheffield. Reinforcements are not a half-season, or a full season, away. Trading for works-in-progress like Nathan Eovaldi or Michael Pineda have come with mixed results, which is par for the course for pitchers like that. If the Yankees don’t come to terms with the fact they need to take risks in acquiring elite talent, either via free agency or via trade, then it’s just more of the same.