1. Gerrit Cole
2. Jordan Montgomery
3. Luis Severino
4. Nestor Cortes
5. Domingo Germán
6. Jameson Taillon
The numbers don’t really matter too much here, and Severino is the only “new” name here, returning from injury. After Cole, there is the second tier of starters which includes Montgomery, Taillon, and Severino. For different reasons, those pitchers are slotted between Nos. 2-4 and are near-locks to be full-time starters as long as they are healthy, making that fifth spot an interesting area for potential upgrades. It’s not needed, per se, but a starter of John Means’ caliber would slot very well into that fifth spot with legitimate 2-3 upside.
Similar to the conversation we had about Cedric Mullins as a potential fit in the Bronx, this one comes with loads of caveats. Yes, the Baltimore Orioles are not good by any means (no pun intended) and their short-term hopes for competing in a loaded AL East are quite grim. However, that doesn’t mean they should refuse to try! They have great foundational building blocks in Mullins and Means that can support their three big-time prospects in Adley Rutschman, Grayson Rodriguez, and D.L. Hall upon their arrival. Moving Means would mean pushing their window back even further, but let’s be honest here: Given the current state of the AL East, their competitive window is not realistically landing within the next three seasons.
With that in mind, there is a slim chance that Means is moved, as ESPN’s Buster Olney noted that Baltimore was indeed “dangling” him in trade talks as recently as November. If that is the case, then many general managers will undoubtedly be blowing up Mike Elias’ phone if it hasn’t happened already. While Means hasn’t necessarily put together a full season of 180+ innings in his career, he has proven that at minimum, he can be a solid mid-rotation starter with no-hit potential and the upside to do even more.
The Yankees don’t really have a pitcher like Means either. Adding him to the rotation would add diversification to the staff. The Tampa Bay Rays have proven how valuable that can be to a team. You might be thinking, “Well, Montgomery throws a changeup and curveball, and he is an over-the-top release lefty!” The difference is that Means and Montgomery throw extremely different changeups.
Montgomery is one of the weird pitchers who throws a changeup with cutting action. Because of the way that Montgomery releases the ball, a cut-changeup is more natural to him than it is to somebody like Means, who throws a traditional circle changeup.
They each throw from different arm slots and their pitches have different qualities. Means’ repertoire would be a different look from anybody on the Yankees staff, even when comparing him with to a fellow southpaw. It’s not a tough case to make. Trade for a solid left-handed starter with great command and three good pitches? Sign me up.
The only concerning factor is the potential cost. As previously noted, the Orioles don’t have much of a reason to move Means. He has three more years of team control, comes at a low salary relative to the value he brings to a team, and would relieve some pressure from the organization’s top two prospects. The only way I see the team letting him go is if they can acquire multiple players on their way to debuting in 2022 and 2023.
It’s undeniable that the Yankees have those exact players in their system, but it would have to be enough to convince the O’s that it is a low-risk move. At Means’ current production, it seems like something that would be a no-brainer if the opportunity presents itself, but as we know, Brian Cashman values the system’s prospects and player development capabilities. Like many potential trades for impact players, the likelihood lies in Cashman’s willingness to move on from prospects.
The single greatest caveat still lingers as well. With the lockout still ongoing and the amount of time between the start of spring training and Opening Day decreasing, the less likely it is that the Yankees make any significant moves like this before the 2022 campaign commences. If the owners get their heads together and begin to bargain, maybe GMs like Cashman will be able to explore significant upgrades via trade like John Means. Until then, we wait and wait and wait.