Despite the fact that they have a top-tier starter in Gerrit Cole, the Yankees’ starting pitching depth has certainly seen better days. Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and J.A. Happ — all members of the staff in the 2020 season — are now free agents, while Luis Severino won’t pitch until June or July and Domingo Germán last pitched in the majors in September 2019.
Besides Cole, Germán, and Severino, the Bombers have Jordan Montgomery and Deivi García as big-league ready starters. That’s five. Behind them, there are some talented, yet inexperienced hurlers: Clarke Schmidt, Michael King, Nick Nelson and Miguel Yajure. Nelson Cortés was recently signed to provide some depth, but he shouldn’t be a realistic option to start games on a contender.
In an appearance on YES Network’s Yankees Hot Stove this week, general manager Brian Cashman discussed the rotation at length. He said that the team is counting on Germán to return next season, and implied that while it would be ideal to add to the currently existing group, he may not need to.
“You’ve got (Gerrit) Cole at the number one spot,” Cashman explained. “You got arguably guys that are easy in theory number two’s at worst in Severino and German when they’re firing all cylinders. They will be back with us. We’re really high on (Jordan) Montgomery and I think he’ll continue to take his next steps. I think Deivi Garcia at the end what he did last year was something that gives us great optimism. The limited experience and exposure that he got should serve him well moving forward.”
Cashman also talked about the depth options. “Then you got Michael King, (Clarke) Schmidt, (Nick) Nelson and (Miguel) Yajure, among others. Would I like to add to it? The answer is yes, if we can. I think it’s best served to do so, but at worst you could certainly daydream just to believe that you might actually have everything that you need there.”
A team needs between eight and ten starters
These days, a team needs between eight and ten quality starters to navigate through a full season. Between injuries, suspensions, unexpected underperformances, and regular wear and tear, that’s the ideal number of reliable starters a contending club should have.
That’s why the Yankees need to find a way to add to the existing pitching depth. The fifth starter in Cashman’s depth chart, García, has surpassed 100 innings once in his career, has only pitched 34.1 frames at the major-league level and his ability to control his pitches consistently is unproven.
King is most likely a finished product; but Schmidt, Nelson, and especially Yajure could use some additional time in the minors honing their crafts. Rushing them to fill a rotation spot in the bigs at this point could interfere with their development.
Right now, the Yankees still have several avenues to improve their rotation. They could re-sign one of their own free agents — Tanaka is the most likely to return though he isn’t particularly close to doing so currently — they could ink star pitcher Trevor Bauer, or cheaper, yet still quality options such as Jake Odorizzi, Taijuan Walker, Corey Kluber and Adam Wainwright.
If they feel Bauer would be too costly, which is understandable, and the other guys won’t move the needle too much (debatable depending on each case) they can also bring a low-cost depth option. There are some pitchers that could fit that description that could have some upside, such as Carlos Rodón, Chris Archer, Brad Peacock, and many more.
The Yankees could also explore the trade market. There aren’t too many sellers right now, but the Pittsburgh Pirates are fielding calls for righty Joe Musgrove. There will certainly be others that get offered up before pitchers and catchers report.
As you can see, there is talent up for grabs. And Hal Steinbrenner, Cashman, and the organization as a whole must address the rotation depth if they don’t want the next season to end like 2020 did.