Last week, Brian Cashman said the Yankees are in the market for starting pitching. Not exactly a news flash, I know. We’ve been hearing this since the offseason. Over the winter, the Yankees were linked to Gerrit Cole, Yu Darvish, Alex Cobb, and others. Now, with roughly one-third of the season in the books and the pennant chase taking shape, it’s obvious that New York’s Achilles Heel remains starting pitching.
Overall, the Yankees rotation hasn’t performed badly at all. In fact, the club stands third in the league in quality start percentage (50%) and FIP (3.69), while ranking fourth in ERA+ (113). New York’s starters have also allowed the third fewest home runs (35).
The argument can be made that the staff’s numbers are buoyed by Luis Severino’s Cy Young-caliber performance. However, the top teams all have at least one starter performing as well as Severino. The Yankees have gotten great starts from everyone throughout the rotation. The problem is consistency. Beyond Severino and CC Sabathia, we just don’t know how the other starters will perform from one outing to the next.
I have no doubt that the current Yankees rotation is good enough to get the team to the playoffs. New York boasts enough firepower in the lineup to overcome even some of the worst outings by its starters. However, simply making the playoffs isn’t good enough. Not this year. The Yankees hold loftier ambitions, as do the fans.
The Yankees and Red Sox are locked in a duel for the best record in baseball, but it’s not about bragging rights. The winner gets home field advantage through the World Series. The loser has to win the Wild Card game and is prevented by rule from getting the extra home game in any series short of the Fall Classic. The stakes couldn't be higher in the AL East this year. The ramifications of the Yankees losing that race couldn’t be more concerning.
If the postseason began today, the Yankees would host the Wild Card game. A win would put them into the best-of-five Division Series against the Red Sox. Utilizing Severino in the Wild Card game means he’d only be available once during the ALDS. It also means that either Sonny Gray or Domingo German would have to start one of those games. At this point, I trust neither.
Enter Cole Hamels. Four of his last six outings have been quality starts. During that stretch, he shut down the Indians, Red Sox, Astros, and Yankees in consecutive starts. His two other outings against Houston this year were also strong. Hamels allowed three runs in the first game and two in the other.
Overall, he’s pitched to a 3.74 ERA and 122 ERA+ in 2018. Hamels also boasts 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings, good for 15th in the league behind the likes of Severino, Sale, and Verlander — but ahead of New York’s other starters and defending Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber.
Hamels also possesses an outstanding postseason resume. He carries a 7-6 record with a 3.48 ERA over 16 starts. He also boasts a 1.09 WHIP in 98 1/3 innings, while limiting opponents to 1.1 home runs per nine.
I believe Hamels gives the Yankees a much better rotation option than either German or Gray moving forward for the remainder of the season. The comfort level of having Hamels pitch for the Yankees in the playoffs is astronomically higher.
The Yankees whiffed at an opportunity to acquire Justin Verlander last year. We know how that worked out. Verlander limited the Bombers to one run across two ALCS starts. The Astros advanced and the Yankees watched the World Series on television.
With so many playoff races up for grabs, it’s unknown which, if any, top arms with extensive postseason experience might become available. The competition for said arms will likely be fierce around the trading deadline. The Rangers are already open for business. The Yankees should act now and acquire Hamels while they have the chance.
Yes, it will cost the club prospects. The Yankees, though, have an ample reservoir from which to give. It will also put them up against the CBT threshold — but not necessarily over it. The Yankees would be on the hook for a pro-rated share of Hamels’ $23.5 million salary, which right now would be around $16 million. Incidentally, Hamels’ contract has a vesting clause and team option for next year. So a trade to acquire him wouldn’t have to represent a partial-season rental.
During the Yankees’ recent visit to Arlington, Hamels was asked about the prospect of being traded to New York. He quipped that he already helped them win a World Series, referring to his poor outing when he pitched for the Phillies in 2009. I think he’d be a great fit for the Yankees, personality-wise, in addition to his pitching prowess.
What do you think? Should the Yankees trade for Cole Hamels? Let us know in the comments section below.