Writing Staff Position: The Yankees Need Another Ace

As a die-hard Yankees fan and with a huge passion for journalism, I would love to be considered for the open writing position job.

With a record of 28-12, the Yankees are excelling and there are very few areas of weakness on the roster. However, as a true Yankees fan, I’ll be nitpicky and complain about the Yankees’ lack of a second dominant starter and what general manager Brian Cashman should do now to upgrade.

One of baseball’s most famous sayings is that pitching wins championships. Right now, the Yankees have the pitching to get them to the postseason, but not enough to line up with the best of the best as they pursue their 28th championship.

The aforementioned philosophy has held true in recent years as in the cases of the last two World Series winners: the 2017 Houston Astros and the 2016 Chicago Cubs. The Astros rode their pair of former Cy Young Award Winner aces, Justin Verlander, who won the 2017 ALCS MVP, and Dallas Keuchel. The Cubs ended their 108-year title drought led by their own trio of aces in Jake Arrieta, who won the National League Cy Young Award in 2015, Jon Lester, and Kyle Hendricks.

Essentially, championship contenders need premium pitching in order to go all the way. Currently, the Yankees only have one ace, Luis Severino, that can more likely than not go out and get the job done on any given day. Severino is definitely a top-flight pitcher for years to come as evidenced by his third-place finish in the American League Cy Young Award race last season and his continued dominance this season pitching to a 6-1 record with a 2.14 earned run average across 59 innings. However, there is no clear cut number two starter that could slot in nicely behind Severino in a playoff rotation, most likely facing off against some of the best offenses in the league.

From 2014-2016, Masahiro Tanaka was the unquestioned ace of the Yankee staff, accumulating a stupendous 3.12 earned run average, which ranked thirteenth out of all starters who had pitched at least 450 innings. The Yankees would definitely love for that version of Tanaka to return as he would give them a pair of aces that is at par with the league’s best. Unfortunately, Tanaka has looked like a shell of his former self with an ugly 2017 season that has now extended into this season. Across eight starts, Tanaka has posted an earned run average of 4.66 in 46.1 innings.

Another rotation member that has underwhelmed this season is 2017 trade deadline acquisition Sonny Gray. For Gray, Cashman parted with three top-100 prospects in pitcher James Kaprielian, shortstop Jorge Mateo, and center fielder Dustin Fowler. Given Gray’s track record, the price was mostly deemed as worth the rotation upgrade that he was predicted to provide. Last season, Gray was solid, but not spectacular in 11 starts, pitching to a 4-7 record with a 3.72 earned run average. The 2018 season has been a complete disaster for Gray as he has compiled a 6.39 earned run average in eight disappointing starts thus far.

The fourth and last permanent member of the rotation as of now is C.C. Sabathia, who despite losing his overpowering velocity that he dominated with in his prime, has performed exceptionally well to start the 2018 campaign. As documented by his 2.23 earned run average over 36.1 innings in his eight starts so far, the problem with Sabathia isn’t in his performance, but with his durability and injury history. Sabathia has been on the disabled list in each of the five previous seasons, including the 2018 season in which he was placed on the 10-day disabled list on April 7 with a right hip strain.

At this point in the season, Severino is the only starter who averages at least six innings per start. Currently, the Yankees’ bullpen has pitched the tenth-most innings in Major League Baseball, averaging 3.7 innings pitched per game with a grand total of 148 innings. Last season, with former manager Joe Girardi at the helm, the bullpen was notorious for being overworked and tired, turning what many considered to be the Yankees’ biggest strength into a weakness for stretches.

The addition of a second premier starter is viable for the Yankees given their seemingly endless depth of position players. The Yankees have many trade chips that they could use in pursuit of another pitcher as their farm system was ranked second by ESPN’s Keith Law before the season started. Two players that immediately surface as expendable as a result of the Yankees’ depth are third baseman Brandon Drury and outfield prospect Clint Frazier.

Despite trading two prospects for Drury just under three months ago, Miguel Andujar has impressed and claimed the third base job while Drury was battling a series of migraines. The Yankees thought enough of Andujar’s performance that Drury was optioned to Triple-A, presumably until when or if Andujar begins to struggle. That being said, the Yankees believe in Andujar’s potential to the point where he is most likely going to be given ample opportunity to claim the third base job for good, leaving Drury without a solidified place on the roster. In addition to this, the Yankees also have adequate utility infielders in Ronald Torreyes at the big-league level and Tyler Wade waiting in Triple-A.

Frazier is also blocked, but instead of it being by one single player, he is below a plethora of talented outfielders on the depth chart. Currently, the Yankees have Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton on their active roster as outfielders as well as the unwanted return of Jacoby Ellsbury at some point. Barring a string of injuries, Frazier will most likely not get the chance to carve out a role for himself with the current dynamic of the roster.

As a result of the uncertainty regarding the futures of Drury and Frazier with the organization, the Yankees can deal from areas of depth and strength in order to get the ace to pair with Severino that they so desperately need. Throughout the whole offseason, Frazier was reported as trade bait for the Yankees as they pursued ace Gerrit Cole, who was eventually acquired by the Astros, so the Yankees are clearly willing to part with Frazier.

A package headlined by Frazier and Drury would certainly entice teams and a deal could definitely be made if secondary players were added as well. With the addition of a second ace, the Yankees’ rotation would turn from solid to elite in an instant. Now, imagine if one of or both Tanaka and Gray suddenly turn it around. Combined with the high-octane offense and electric bullpen, that could be a championship roster right there.

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