How does a pitching staff go from one of the best in baseball in 2014 to such a chaotic state just a couple months later? For the Yankees, they let Brandon McCarthy and (as of now) Hiroki Kuroda walk as free agents, traded Shane Greene for a shortstop (understandable), and the three primary starters remaining all carry injury risks, given that Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, and CC Sabathia are all rebounding from serious elbow, shoulder, and knee injuries, respectively. Other than them, the rotation I guess right now has David Phelps and I suppose one of Bryan Mitchell, Chase Whitley, or Adam Warren. Yikes.
So with Jon Lester officially off the market, what's the solution for the Yankees? It has to be Max Scherzer. He's the one huge starter remaining on the market, given that the rest is populated by the likes of the older James Shields and other mediocre pitchers. It would be a challenge to feel that confident in a Yankees rotation featuring those other players, unless there's a trade in the works (which can't be ruled out). It changes entirely with Scherzer at the top.
If Scherzer was brought into the fold, he would instantly become the team's ace and they would actually have a reliable starter. The 2013 AL Cy Young Award winner has been among the best pitchers in baseball over the past few years, making the Diamondbacks look even sillier for giving him up in the 2009-10 off-season in exchange for Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy. He's in the middle of his prime at age 29, he's a strikeout machine (241 per year since 2012), he's damn difficult to hit (7.6 H/9), and he doesn't walk many batters, either (2.6 BB/9). Although he racked up innings in college, he also has fewer innings pitched than most elite starters do at his age. For instance, Scherzer's thrown over 300 innings fewer than his former rotationmate Justin Verlander, another collegiate ace.
There's so much to like about Scherzer that it's worth surrendering a first round draft pick to get him. By letting David Robertson sign with the White Sox, the Yankees got the compensation round pick that they seemed intent on receiving, so it's not like they'll be deprived of first round-type talent otherwise by losing a pick for Scherzer. This is a team that really can't afford a rebuilding year, given that Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, and Brian McCann are all in their prime years, and the fact that Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran aren't getting any younger. Yes, the offense has to rebound from last year, and they should probably re-sign Chase Headley to help the lineup somewhat as well.
However, theoretically adding Headley doesn't mean the rotation can be ignored, either. Something has to be done, or the Yankees will be looking at a third straight season with a quiet October, which is more financially damaging to their franchise than any other team in baseball. Scherzer would be a big investment, but one that the Yankees likely have to make. Come on, Hal. The SS Big Stein can wait a little longer before it has to be built. Open up the wallet for Scherzer, or the 2015 Yankees will probably be in serious trouble from the get-go.