Yankees fans may have reached DEFCON levels of frustration.
The shoulder injury to Yankees ace Luis Severino has understandably irritated a fan base already dismayed by the front office’s refusal to pursue top free agent talents this past offseason. The news that broke on Tuesday that he had suffered a lat strain and would be shut down for six weeks — once again, very understandably — ignited the same response from the fans.
Look across the entire Yankees online community. There are articles and comments all amounting to the same thing: go out there and acquire another pitcher. Everybody has their own favorite, with some fans supporting the signing of Dallas Keuchel, while others advocate a trade for Madison Bumgarner. The essence of these cries remains the same, though, and that is New York’s pitching staff does not have enough talent to allow us to compete with Tampa Bay, Houston, and Boston.
There is definitely some evidence to support this notion — Tampa Bay has opened the season with a lights-out 1.80 ERA, 2.64 FIP, and 4.91 K/BB through the first 11 games of the season. Houston has largely matched the Yankees with a 3.06 ERA, 3.08 FIP, and 4.43 K/BB in that time. For comparison, the Yankees have a 3.03 ERA, 3.17 FIP, but only a 2.71 K/BB in 10 games at time of writing.
That does not mean the Yankees need to rush to act. For starters, those stats are the definition of a small sample size (approximately 1/16, or 6%. of the season); they will change, and more likely than not, the Yankees’, Astros’, and Rays’ stat lines will begin to look more similar. More importantly, because we are still only about two weeks into the season, the price to act is still very high.
It makes sense to begin with the most obvious target, free agent Dallas Keuchel. Ken Rosenthal reports the latest rumors surrounding the former Cy Young award winner:
"The longer Keuchel waits, the more he will sacrifice in a prorated deal and the longer it will take him to prepare." @Ken_Rosenthal gives us updates on Dallas Keuchel and some of the biggest storylines in Major League Baseball for this week's Full Count. pic.twitter.com/CNzYRMS7XC— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) April 6, 2019
While I do not criticize Keuchel at all for wanting to maximize his contract, the truth of the matter is that he will not be on the mound for some time before he signs. According to reports, he has been pitching simulated games every fifth day in order to be prepared when he signs. While that is great, and will almost certainly help keep his preparation time down, he is still not facing major league-caliber hitting — or even minor-league talent.
At this point in time, he likely would not be much of an upgrade until he has a few starts under his belt, which is why I do not see him signing with anybody until after the amateur draft. No team is going to want to match that salary and lose a draft pick for a guy who will give them probably half a season of good performance.
The other name that the Yankees have been linked to, seemingly since forever, has been Madison Bumgarner — and for good reason. He has been a reliable workhorse, barring two fluke injuries (a dirtbike accident in 2017 and a line drive in 2018), dominant in the postseason, and is still only 29 years old. These reasons, however, also drive the price up, making the Yankees more inclined to wait.
Even though he is going to be a free agent following the season, acquiring a pitcher of Bumgarner’s caliber is going to hurt, and right now, the Yankees’ farm system probably cannot pay the price. Trade chips have dwindled thanks to Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, Luis Severino, Gary Sanchez, Clint Frazier, and a number of other players graduating. The same goes for various deals Brian Cashman made since 2017.
That said, due to an abundance of high-risk, high-ceiling players, there is a good chance that numerous prospects will rapidly rise through the ranks and become tradable assets by mid-summer. Maybe they could could be flipped in hypothetical a trade for Bumgarner.
While it is impossible to predict just what the trade market will look like. Depending on the teams in contention, there very well could be a strong market for starting pitching, which will drive up the price, or a weak one, which would bode well for the Yankees. Unless a deal falls into their laps, the Yankees would do better to wait and hope that some of their lottery ticket prospects begin to bear fruit.
It is completely understandable why those who follow the Yankees, both fans and media alike, are itching for the team to either sign Keuchel or trade for Bumgarner. Even should the worst occur and the Yankees lose Severino for a significant portion of the season, rushing into a move out of desperation will not benefit the team.