As Grapefruit League action picks up steam, a number of free agents remain unsigned. Among them is a pair of mid-rotation pitchers, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb. Last week I argued that the Yankees should bolster their starting staff, but it appears unlikely that those two will suit up in pinstripes.
Aaron Boone addressed the free agent pitchers prior to yesterday’s game against the Phillies. “At this point I don’t see those guys as realistic options,” the Yankees manager told the press. “It’s my understanding that those guys aren’t really in play for us.”
Cobb, 30, pitched to a 3.66 ERA with a 4.16 FIP around 179.1 innings last season. A staple in the Tampa Bay Rays’ rotation for half a decade, he has experience pitching at a high level in the AL East. Just two weeks ago Jon Heyman suggested that Cobb made the the most sense for the Yankees. “I think they will look at Cobb,” he told WFAN. “I think they like Cobb. He’d be the guy probably, most likely.” If Boone is to be believed, they don’t like him that much.
As for Lynn, the 30-year-old worked a 3.43 ERA with a 4.82 FIP across 186.1 innings in 2017. He routinely outperforms his peripherals and has extensive postseason experience. The Yankees have only recently been connected to the right-hander. Jon Morosi reported the team’s interest last week.
Cobb and Lynn have a number of things in common. They’re the same age and both underwent Tommy John surgery in recent history. It’s clear that they would both provide a boost to any contending rotation. I like Jordan Montgomery as much as the next guy, but he is not indispensable. If he has to make a few starts in Triple-A, that’s fine. No rotation uses just five starters anyway.
If the Yankees are interested in both pitchers, then what explains the lack of action? It appears to come down to financials. Brian Cashman indicated as much last week.
Cashman said he will continue to evaluate the pitching market. “If I can add another starter, great,” said Cashman. The GM added that he hasn’t liked the price tags on available pitchers.— Jack Curry (@JackCurryYES) February 21, 2018
The consensus is that the Yankees have about $22 million left in their budget before reaching the luxury tax threshold. Assuming they set aside $10 million for midseason additions, that leaves them $12 million to land a pitcher. Cobb and Lynn apparently have demands exceeding that rate, meaning they probably won’t pitch for the Bombers.
It’s a shame that money is standing between the Yankees and an upgrade to the rotation. They have the resources and should use them. Some will say that they have enough depth, that Montgomery is too important push aside, that the kids are coming. There are two good arms on the market, though, and that could swing the balance of power. The Astros and Cubs have already added to their staffs this winter. It’s time for the Yankees to make their move.