The Yankees have made it clear that they’re in the hunt for a starting pitcher. They’ve been connected to a host of top targets on both the free agent and trade markets. Gerrit Cole, Michael Fulmer, Chris Archer, Yu Darvish, and Alex Cobb have all found their names in various rumors with the Bombers. Should Brian Cashman struggle to make one of these deals work, however, he has a variety of fallback options. Do any of them make sense for the team though?
The Yankees know Garcia fairly well, considering he played for them down the stretch last season. The 31-year-old pitched to a 4.82 ERA over 37.1 innings in pinstripes. His peripherals didn’t inspire much confidence either. He owned a 4.87 FIP with an alarming 1.45 HR/9. Those details alone could convince a team to say no thanks.
On the other hand, the Yankees do need someone to eat innings, and Garcia can do that. He’s also battled tested in New York and throws left-handed. Those are both pluses. One would have to expect he wouldn’t cost much either. For a number six starter or swingman, you could do a lot worse than Garcia.
Remember when Vargas started off the 2017 season really well? Me neither. He did though, running a 2.62 ERA through the All-Star break. The bottom fell off almost immediately after though. He caught the home run bug to the tune of a 1.95 HR/9 and managed a 6.38 ERA in the second half. Yikes.
Like Garcia, Vargas is attractive as a southpaw who figures to come on the cheap. He showed he could dominate for stretches at a time, but it’s not wise to bank on that. One has to assume that second-half Vargas is closer to the real deal than the ace impression he had going.
Oh, I suppose you want a rationale. Lackey, 39, pitched terribly for the Cubs last season. He owned a 4.59 ERA with a 5.30 FIP. He surrendered an inordinate amount of home runs and walked a few too many. Plus, he worked with severely diminished stuff. He lost velocity across the board.
According to Jon Heyman, Lackey intends to pitch in 2018. That said, it’s tough to imagine a team giving him a major league contract. While there’s no such thing as bad minor league deal, I say pass. There’s not enough upside here to justify adding Lackey.
After pitching well enough to earn a qualifying offer from the Phillies following the 2016 season, Hellickson had a nightmare 2017 campaign. Splitting time between Philadelphia and Baltimore, he pitched to a 5.43 ERA (5.77 FIP) over 164 innings. He also struggled to register strikeouts (5.27 K/9) and groundballs (34.9 GB%). That’s a scary combination for a starting pitcher.
The upside to Hellickson is his age. At 30 years old, he’s the youngest arm on this list. That in itself should land him a multi-year deal, and one would assume that takes the Yankees out of the running. Signing Hellickson seems like a move that a team will regret almost instantly.
With their eyes focused on a World Series run, the Yankees should remain in contact on the top available pitchers. Signing one of these starters seems like a move the 2013 - 2016 Yankees would make. Now they should focus on impact additions, not marginal upgrades. If they do opt for a depth piece, Garcia or Vargas seem like the smart plays.