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Just how good is the Yankees’ rotation?

A ceiling like this hasn’t been seen in decades.

Colorado Rockies v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

By now you know Carlos Rodón is a Yankee, slotting in second in the club’s rotation behind a guy that he’s been three full wins better than over the past two years. Now, who the nominal “ace” of the staff is or who starts Opening Day, that might matter to the players, but it doesn’t really matter to me. What does matter to me, is that the nominal “ace” is really really good, and has inarguably been worse than the free agent the club just signed.

And that’s really exciting. It’s even more exciting when you remember that Nestor Cortes, who right now is the number three pitcher in the rotation, was better in 2022 than Gerrit Cole! If we just base these guys off their 2022 performance, Gerrit Cole is the third or fourth best pitcher in this group, which is so nonsensical that if I were not looking at the FanGraphs pages while writing this, I would not believe it. This rotation should be stacked.

Steamer projects them to be the best in baseball, at 16.3 projected fWAR. If this sounds better than the Yankees have featured in quite some time, yeah, you’re right:

Quite simply, this has the potential to be the best rotation the Yankees have fielded in 20 years. The last time that the staff was this good, it featured one guy who’s in the Hall of Fame, one guy who should be, and two guys who aren’t Hall of Famers but we would absolutely take in any MLB rotation.

Now, just because something is projected doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, in fact, it rarely does. Projections are a 50th percentile outcome, we expect that about half the time the player or position group will end up above the level and half the time below — Cole came in about two wins less than his 2022 preseason projection, for example.

Part of that downside risk is performance, and part of it is injury risk. Rodón has been better than Cole the last two seasons, and is just one year older than Cole at the time of signing. The reason he signed for three fewer seasons — and $200 million less — is because last year he reached a career high in innings pitched at 178, a mark Cole has topped six times. Nestor Cortes and Luis Severino face similar questions about durability.

It’s a sign of the times, but the 2001 Yankees saw four guys throw at least 180 innings, 2002 three, and 2003 four again. This upcoming season just Cole and Rodón are projected to reach that number, and again with projections being a 50 percentile outcome, there’s about a 49 percent chance Carlos fails to get there.

On a pure talent level, this is the best rotation the Yankees have featured in decades. It wouldn’t surprise me, and shouldn’t you, if the position group tops 20 WAR — a rebounding Gerrit Cole and both Sevy and Cortes able to pitch more innings than last season gets you pretty close, and none of those circumstances would be that outside the realm of possibilities.

The downside risk is still there, but this is about as exciting a group of arms you’ll find in recent Yankees history. The top of the rotation is a testament to how good you can be when you just decide to spend money on the best pitcher available, and it’s more than likely we’ll see the rewards of that strategy in the very first series of the year.