Well Brian, hats off to you.
The Yankees have been plagued by pitching regression for the last six weeks or so, with Luis Severino going to the IL, Jameson Taillon struggling, and even the top two arms in Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes still pitching well, but not as dominant as the first couple months of the season. The team needed pitching help, and 24 hours before the deadline, Brian Cashman delivered, landing Frankie Montas and Lou Trivino from the Oakland Athletics.
The deadline for the Yankees has very much had an air of “what do you get the team that has everything”? They’re 11.5 games up in the AL East, have a 100 percent chance of reaching the postseason according to FanGraphs, and even with the abovementioned pitching regression, you could see a scenario where the team held steady and everything worked out.
Instead, they add a 3.18 ERA/3.36 FIP righthander who’s able to both avoid barrels and generate whiffs, who should be the last piece in a pretty terrific playoff rotation. I’m not sure whether you’d rather have Montas pitch a hypothetical game two or game three, as his superior velocity might be preferable to Cortes’ command-and-control game. Critically, though, his presence takes the pressure off Severino’s recovery, who barring a miracle probably now works out of the bullpen, and pushes Jordan Montgomery into the fourth-starter role that we’ve seen him in before.
They also add Lou Trivino, to shore up a bullpen hit by both injury and potential overuse. Trivino’s topline stat, a 6.47 ERA, isn’t great, but he’s been hit with some bad home run luck. Twenty-one percent of his fly balls have left the yard in 2022, and while it’s not unusual for hard throwing relievers to get tagged sometimes, that’s just not a rate that’s going to stay that high all year — a 2.92 xFIP, which attempts to neutralize home run luck, is now the fourth-best on the entire staff, not just among the Yankee relief corps.
This is a safety valve deal, with an eye toward a solid, anyone-can-go playoff pitching staff. The Yankees were under significant pressure due to injury and regression, and this move vents some of that pressure. It’s not perfect — Montas, for example, doesn’t spout tremendous secondary offerings, mostly a splitter and slider that should be better than they are — but it goes a long way to addressing the concerns on the pitching staff. On the repertoire front, if I had to guess, the focus for Matt Blake will be throwing the splitter more, and developing Montas’ cutter along the similar cutter-to-slider spectrum that Cortes uses.
I have to figure the Yankees are pretty much done at this point. Joey Gallo is still on this roster and you can imagine that doesn’t last long. Otherwise, the book is likely closed on this squad ahead of the stretch run. If this is truly it, it’s difficult to argue that the Yankees didn’t address the main concerns of a team with a dozen-game-lead in the division.