Injuries to the Yankees rotation have haunted the club all season. Unfortunately, all of the injured have concerns heading into next season: CC Sabathia’s knee injury is said to be career threatening, Ivan Nova is recovering from Tommy John surgery and isn’t expected back until late April, David Phelps spent time on the DL with an elbow injury, Michael Pineda hasn’t made it through a full season since 2011 because of shoulder issues, and Masahiro Tanaka has a partial tear of his UCL and could end up needing surgery at any time. To get through next year, the Yankees are going to have to add to what they have in their system.
Looking at the free agent market, there are a few players of note with different contract demands. At the high-end you have Max Scherzer and Jon Lester headlining the pitching crop. Both are playoff tested and will require long-term, big-money deals. Lester seems like a better fit as a lefty in his prime ad coming from the AL East. Mid-level options include James Shields and Brandon McCarthy. Both are over 30 years old and will have some level of risk. Shields has been a proven workhorse and will be pursued by many teams this offseason, while McCarthy rewarded the Yankees with an incredible second half. A return for McCarthy could be in the cards if he’s willing to take a two-to-three-year deal.
As for in-house options, Shane Greene could be in line for a rotation spot. Greene pitched well this season and deserves a chance in 2015 after his performance with the big club. On the farm, you have Bryan Mitchell and Manny Banuelos as possible options in Triple-A, but both will need to work on their command in order to make the show. Yankees top prospect Luis Severino should not be ruled out as an option if he repeats this past season’s dominance. The front office showed the willingness to promote him aggressively and he could potentially reach the club late in the 2015 season.
The trade market has limited appeal with pitchers having various levels of availability. Ian Kennedy and Cole Hamels were rumored to be on the market at the 2014 trade deadline, but the question is whether or not the Yankees have the prospects to make that kind of deal, especially for Hamels, who still has five years and $110 million remaining on his contract. Recently, Cashman has shown reluctance to trade his top prospects, which make that type of deal unlikely.
My gut feeling is that the Yankees rotation will look like this on Opening Day 2015:
CC Sabathia/Shane Greene
Health and pitching depth will be key for the 2015 pitching staff. Cashman seems to have a knack for finding undervalued assets after the acquisitions of Brandon McCarthy and Chris Capuano kept the Yankees in the playoff hunt until the end of 2014. Hopefully they can find a few more quality pitchers to either add to what they already have or keep in Triple-A for when they might need it.