Through the first six weeks of the season, the Yankees have a legitimate claim at baseball’s biggest surprise. In what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, the club stormed out the gate, compiling a 21 - 11 record. The team has exceeded expectations, especially when it comes to offense. The young sluggers tore the cover off the ball, and the veterans turned the clocks back to their prime days.
The starting rotation, however, still features a number of question marks. CC Sabathia’s early success vanished. He now owns a 5.77 ERA, complete with a 5.18 FIP. Jordan Montgomery and Luis Severino are off to a strong start, but remain largely unproven. Plus, Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda are no strangers to the disabled. If any part of the Yankees’ roster needed an upgrade, it would be the starting pitching.
When a team performs well and has a clear need, trade rumors naturally circulate. Even though it’s only May, there’s been no shortage of speculation that the Yankees will acquire a starting pitcher before the deadline. Dave Cameron of FanGraphs opined that the Bombers should make a play for Yu Darvish. John Harper of the New York Daily News suggested Johnny Cueto as an alternative. Rental pitchers seem fashionable in these hypotheticals.
The Yankees, however, appear unlikely to deal prospects for rentals. The hot start doesn’t change the organization’s long-term plan. Last July, Brian Cashman noted that he wanted to “ build an uber team, a sustainable one.” Cashing in top trade chips for a rental pitcher goes against that strategy. It’s a short-sighted move. While the Yankees look good now, they’re probably not in position to go all-in just yet.
There are instances, however, where it makes sense to part with prospects. During the offseason, I advocated for the Yankees to use their cache of minor leaguers to acquire a controllable starting pitcher. I still stand by that. If the Yankees can pry away a young starter, they should make the move. Jose Quintana and Gerrit Cole have popped up in hypothetical scenarios, and they’re the type of pitchers the club should target. One who would provide help now, as well as serve as a building block for future seasons.
It bears repeating that we’re only a fraction into the season. Although entertaining, trade discussions in May are premature and uninformed. A lot can change between now and July. So many variables go into the trade deadline, and right now, there’s no focused picture available. Nobody yet knows who will actually be available, what teams will be in contention, or how market forces will shape up.
It’s clear, however, that the Yankees are a talented team, and one that will likely need help in the rotation. Since they’re the Yankees and have one of the best farm systems in baseball, they will be connected to any available pitchers. Don’t expect them to make a splash for a rental, though. They’re still a team with an organizational mission of sustainability. The hot start has been fun, but that doesn’t change the long-term outlook. If a controllable player comes along, make a deal. If not, it’s wise to stick to the script.