Neither Max Scherzer nor José Berríos will be wearing pinstripes as many Yankee fans had hoped, but the Yankees did add a starting pitcher at the trade deadline Friday afternoon.
Andrew Heaney, formerly of the Los Angeles Angels, is coming east to the Bronx along with the highly regarded and sought-after “cash considerations.” In exchange, the Yankees sent Double-A pitchers Janson Junk and Elvis Peguero to the Halos.
If you aren’t intimately familiar with Heaney, you can be forgiven, as mid to back-end rotation starters who pitch on the left coast generally don’t stand out. To be clear, when I say “mid to back end” I don’t mean that derisively, as Heaney has been better than his traditional numbers might suggest. His K%-BB% is ninth in the AL among 43 pitchers who’ve logged a minimum of 90 innings (just ahead of Lance Lynn, Nathan Eovaldi, and Berríos) and his expected numbers are much better than his outcome-based statistics. His xFIP of 3.81 – which is almost identical to Lucas Giolito’s and better than Lynn’s – is .24 better than his FIP, and his expected ERA is more than a run better than his traditional ERA.
This is not to say he’s another Robbie Ray being covered up and hidden by old-school stats – he is not. What he is to his new teammates is someone who can eat innings at or near league average performance, and add depth to the rotation. His arrival sends Nestor Cortes Jr. back to the bullpen and holds down a rotation spot until Luis Severino and/or Corey Kluber return. (Or for the glass half-empty crowd, if they don’t return.)
As of this writing, no announcements have been made by the team, but if I were a betting man I’d be thinking Sal Romano is on his way to Scranton to make room for Heaney.
Should the rest of the season go the right way for the Yankees, would Heaney be someone Yankee fans would be comfortable seeing start a Game 7 in October? No, absolutely not.
Is he someone who Yankee fans should be OK with seeing every fifth day to give the team five-plus representative innings? Yes.
At least Brian Cashman hopes so. Although Junk and Peguero weren’t high on the Yankees’ prospect list entering 2021, Junk pitched very well in Somerset, and Peguero was just recently promoted to Double-A, so the Angels didn’t exactly just give Heaney away. Add to the equation that Heaney is a pending free agent, and it may turn out that the Yankees just shuttled two prospects away if Severino and/or Kluber return and Heaney departs at season’s end.
There is a very wide spectrum of outcomes here, which range from Heaney being a reliable mid-rotation starter for two months, to Heaney simply not pitching very often if reinforcements arrive. Regardless of how it works out, this move is unlikely to have a massive impact on the Yankees' fortunes either short or long term.
For the Angels, at 51-52 and trailing four teams in the “race” for the second wild card, it’s safe to say they’re simply looking to get “something” for Heaney even if it is Junk (I’m so sorry, I just couldn’t keep that in any longer) rather than lose him to free agency.
If as a reader of Pinstripe Alley, you’re not concerned about the Angels end of it, I understand. Yet I’ll counter that you should be concerned about the health of baseball. What the Angels are depriving all baseball fans of – again – is seeing Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani in the postseason. One team has the best player of his generation in his prime and another player who (for this season anyway) has been even better than that. Is their continued absence from prime-time postseason games in front of a national audience the biggest problem MLB has? No, not even close – but make no mistake, it is a problem. A part of all of us should be rooting for the Angels just a little bit if for no other reason than it’d be great for baseball.