The Yankees lost their ace early in spring training, saw a big free agent signing disappoint, and suffered one injury after another to their pitching staff. Despite all this, their starting pitching has been generally outstanding this year. In fact, they wouldn’t have been able to take first place in the AL East if that wasn’t the case.
Still, concerns continue to pile up. If it feels like the Yankees’ starting rotation is hanging on by a thread, that’s because it is. J.A. Happ hasn’t pitched well at all, while Luis Severino, CC Sabathia, James Paxton, and Jonathan Loaisiga all currently sit on the injured list with varying return dates.
The situation has gotten so dire that the Yankees have resorted to openers and bullpen days to fill in the rotation gaps. While it’s worked out so far, that strategy probably isn’t sustainable. Relievers can’t be expected to contribute to bullpen days regularly and still be counted upon to remain dominant through September and October. The Yankees need to add an innings-eating starter as soon as possible.
Last week, we took a look at five big-name starting pitchers that the Yankees could target. Madison Bumgarner, Jeff Samardzija, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and free agent Keuchel carry hefty price tags, and it’s unknown whether managing partner Hal Steinbrenner would approve the addition of any significant salary to the club’s payroll. This week, let’s look at five additional starters that New York could target:
Texas Rangers, left-handed pitcher, age 31
Minor is enjoying a career year, having produced a 2.55 ERA and .642 OPS against over 70.2 innings. Interestingly enough, Minor is only one of only 12 MLB pitchers to spin a complete game shutout this season. He’s earning $9.83 million per year, and is signed through 2020.
Toronto Blue Jays, right-handed pitcher, age 28
Stroman has bounced back nicely after a disastrous 2018 campaign. So far this season, he’s produced a 2.74 ERA and .676 OPS against. On the downside, he’s allowed eight home runs in 41 career innings pitched at Yankee Stadium. Stroman’s 2019 salary is $7.4 million, and he’s slated to hit free agency after next season.
Miami Marlins, left-handed pitcher, age 27
The former Yankees farmhand has blossomed since heading to Miami. Smith sports a 3.05 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and .625 against in 56 frames this year. He’s only allowed as many as three runs in a game once. The southpaw has averaged 11.57 strikeouts per nine — the sixth-best mark in MLB among ERA-title qualifiers. Smith’s earning $557,000 this year, and won’t hit free agency until after the 2023 season.
Cincinnati Reds, right-handed pitcher, age 26
Amidst a breakout year, Castillo has produced a stingy 2.45 ERA and .568 OPS against. Plus, he’s allowed only 0.6 homers per nine. Castillo’s also averaged 10.59 strikeouts per nine, the seventh-best mark in the NL among qualifiers. He’s earning $558,000 this year, and doesn’t hit free agency until after the 2023 season. Almost no precedent exists for trading a player as good as Castillo this far from free agency, but the Yankees can dream, right?
Detroit Tigers, right-handed pitcher, age 26
Turnbull must be considered an early contender for this year’s AL Rookie of the Year honors. He’s pitched to a 2.97 ERA and .703 OPS against. The right-hander also has allowed just five home runs in 53.2 innings. His 2019 salary is $556,000, and Turnbull won’t hit free agency until after the 2024 season. The same caveat for Castillo applies to Turnbull.
Minor and Stroman each carry a much more palatable salary than the hurlers we looked at last week. Meanwhile, the three young flamethrowers—Castillo, Turnbull, and Smith— will command a different kind of cost. It’s unknown what it will take to pry any of these young, controllable talents away from their current clubs. If the deals are possible at all, they won’t come cheap in terms of prospects.
One thing is certain: The Yankees need at least one starting pitcher. Hopefully, Brian Cashman will make something happen sooner than later. A successful pennant chase might just depend on it.