At this time of the year, starting pitching is at the top of every contender’s bucket list. Teams want a starter to either close the gap in the standings or to push themselves over the top en route to a World Series run.
The Yankees are among those teams searching for starting pitching, but general manager Brian Cashman is in a tough position. Since the All-Star break the Yankees’ rotation ranks worst in the majors with an 8.10 ERA and 28 home runs allowed. Opponents are slugging .658 with a .418 wOBA against Yankees starters. These issues are daunting and clearly need to be addressed at the deadline.
The division leaders in the National League all have at least four starters in their rotation with over 100 innings pitched; the Yankees have just two. Having the 17th best starting ERA in baseball just isn't going to cut it. They need to add a starter before July 31.
One trade target that’s been mentioned prominently of late is Diamondbacks left-hander Robbie Ray. To be perfectly honest, I think the Yankees should do their due diligence and not pursue him.
Ray is a strikeout artist, with an 11.85 K/9 rate, but he lacks the overall consistency and playoff experience that the Yankees desperately need. At 123 innings pitched, Ray is on pace to beat his career high of 174 in 2016, but what effect will a heavier workload will play in his second half success moving towards the postseason? How will he transition into the AL East? What about his alarming walk rate, a 4.24 BB/9?
A career 4.03 ERA without much durability is concerning enough, but being one of the top three pitchers in baseball in walks also means there is potential to find himself in a good deal of trouble. Fans have already witnessed what high-strikeout caliber starters can do at Yankee Stadium, and so far that pitching philosophy has resulted in J.A Happ and James Paxton. In only two postseason appearances in 2017, Ray was less than stellar, allowing five earned runs in 6.2 innings pitched with a 6.75 ERA.
Yes, Ray is pitching quite well this year, but it still won't add up to his lone All-Star year in 2017, back when he went 15-5 with a 2.89 ERA and 218 strikeouts. When you analyze Ray thoroughly and put him up against the guys that are also available on the current market, I don’t think its worth trying to pursue him. The Yankees need a starter or two who can perform well and also eat up innings, thus allowing one of the best bullpens in baseball to do their job effectively. That truly represents the key for the Yankees if they seek postseason success. The better a starter is, the more effective a bullpen will become. What Ray has done up to this point isn’t convincing that he would be the one to get the job done.