The second half of the 2019 season is underway, and the Red Sox are already making moves. By acquiring starting pitcher Andrew Cashner from the Orioles, Boston puts a little more pressure on the Yankees. Brian Cashman should go out and reinforce the team’s pitching, not just with one starter, but preferably two of them.
The ball is in Cashman’s court, but unfortunately there isn’t a plethora of top starters to choose from. There are, however, two arms that make a ton of sense—pitchers who would give the Yankees a significant boost for the stretch run and the postseason.
New York native and current Toronto Blue Jay Marcus Stroman should be number one on Cashman’s list. The 5-foot-8 leader of the Jays’ staff is having another great season, pitching to a 70 ERA-. He’s also close with some Yankees already, and he thrives on the game’s biggest stages.
Granted, the World Baseball Classic gets overlooked when trying to make a case for big-game ability, but it isn’t something to dissmiss entirely. He shut down two juggernaut lineups that were filled with All-Stars from one through nine.
The strongest case to make for Stroman, though, is that he’s elite when it comes to inducing groundballs. He led the league in groundball percentage in 2016 and 2017, and currently sits in second behind Cardinals starter Dakota Hudson. With the exception of a down season in 2018, Stroman has proven not only that he can perform, but he can perform when needed the most.
When pitching against the Red Sox, it seems as if he’s a lock to go between five to seven innings a start. He only pitched fewer than five innings against them once in the last four years going, going for 4.2 frames on April 18, 2018. Against the key hitters in the heart of the Red Sox lineup, Stroman has fared well, with Mookie Betts going 8-for-37, J.D Martinez 2-for -11, and Jackie Bradley 4-for-11. There’s some small sample noise in there, but the Yankees talked up success against Boston as a reason for acquiring J.A. Happ last summer.
Another reason the Yankees may want to pounce on Stroman is to prevent him from going to the Houston Astros. They already have one of the best rotations in baseball, co-anchored by Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. Putting Stroman in the third or fourth slot of that rotation along would arguably give the Astros the most formidable staff in baseball.
Facing Houston in the playoffs feels inevitable, and the Yankees will probably have to dispense with them if want to get over the hump. Houston has one of the best lineups in baseball, but despite that, Stroman has done well against them. George Springer and Yuli Gurriel are both 2-for-7 off the right-hander, and Alex Bregman is 0-for-11.
If that isn’t convincing enough, then the case for Stroman being a workhorse and an innings eater should be attractive to Cashman. In 2016 and 2017, Stroman pitched over 200 innings, a rarity in today’s game. No other starter on the Yankees has ever pitched over 200 innings besides CC Sabathia, and he hasn't done so himself since 2013.
Acquiring Stroman would allow the Yankees to have a front-end caliber starter who can take pressure off the bullpen. That shouldn’t be the end of Cashman’s work, however. Over the last two summers, the Yankees have added a pair of starters at the deadline. That trend should continue in 2019, but who else would fit behind Stroman?
A deal for Trevor Bauer seem less likely as each day goes by; the Cleveland Indians are only 6.5 games behind the AL Central-leading Twins. But what about the San Francisco Giants and Madison Bumgarner?
The veteran left-hander would be a great second addition to the rotation because of his ability to perform in the big game. His experience and desire to pitch for a contender has many fans thinking he could rejuvenate his career a la Verlander or Cole Hamels.
The Giants currently rank last in the NL West at 42-48, and the possibility of making the postseason is all but eliminated. Their best option would be to give Bumgarner another chance to perform on the big stage, as the three-time World Series winner could be the example and leader that this staff may need to put them over the hump. The 29-year-old boasts a marvelous postseason 2.11 ERA, a playoff pedigree the Yankees apparently covet.
With Luis Severino still sidelined, the Yankees’ need for a starter is clear. That said, they should go for kill and add two arms—and quality ones at that. The 2019 Yankees have a chance to climb all the way to the top of the mountain. Cashman and the front office should act accordingly.