Last season when all starting pitchers except for Hiroki Kuroda fell to injury at some point, the Yankees were able to fill in with depth. Vidal Nuno, Shane Greene, Chase Whitley, and Chris Capuano managed to eat up a combined 298 innings, and that's actually pretty remarkable given the fact the Yankees were not supposed to have any pitching depth beyond their starting five. And even with that many innings coming from sub-optimal sources, the team's starters still had a collective 96 ERA- and 95 FIP-.
Since that point CC Sabathia has returned but has been inconsistent, Masahiro Tanaka is rehabbing, Hiroki Kuroda has departed, Shane Greene and David Phelps have been traded away, Ivan Nova is coming back from a torn UCL, and Chase Whitley will be on the shelf for a year. That's... not encouraging at all for a club that largely relied on depth to stay afloat last season. They have struggled quite a bit, and that's evidenced by their 110 ERA- (but, their FIP- is much better at 93).
Luckily for the front office, there are a host of in-season upgrades that could buoy the club for the rest of the season, at least so that they can take starts away from the likes of Chris Capuano. Here are some pitchers (on poor teams) that will become free agents at the end of the season, accompanied by some peripheral stats:
|2014 FIP-||2014 ERA-||2014 DRA rank|
All of these pitchers have their faults, of course. The only one closest to faultless is Cueto, and that would require a significant investment in terms of money and prospects. But according to Hal Steinbrenner, the mid-range pitcher with a bit of salary on a short-term deal would be exactly the type of player to target. When asked of this, he said:
"I’m not afraid to spend money. I never am. You know that. So when July rolls around, the trade deadline rolls around, we’re going to see where we’re really deficient and we’ll do what we can..."
And when asked whether the team would sacrifice top prospects for an upgrade, he added:
"We’ve been watching these guys for two or three years. I couldn’t stand here two years ago and talk to you guys about them because they’re at [Class A] Charleston and they’re in [Class A] Tampa. It was what it was. But we knew the talent was there. We knew the potential was there... And now all of a sudden they’re at Double-A, Triple-A... And some of this stuff is coming to fruition. But it has to continue."
This would likely rule out Cueto, but that keeps just about all of the rest in play, at the very least. And because just about all of them have a 2015 salary around $10 million, the Yankees would gladly take that money off of the other team's hands. That type of financial leverage is something this team needs to capitalize on, especially when they have lost that advantage in free agency.
Considering how well the Brandon McCarthy trade went last year, the Yankees should be open to replicating that this year. A pitcher with some upside, a moderate salary, and a trade value that would only require cash and flawed prospects would be perfect so the Yankees could fill the back end of their rotation with 75 to 100 more innings. In a tight AL East race, that could make a huge difference.