Last season, the Yankees rotation was wiped out due to injuries to Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda. Hiroki Kuroda was the only pitcher who made it through the full season, and even though the Yankees had to rely on an assortment of players to fill-in, the rotation performed much better than could be expected. This year, the rotation got back all of those players except for Nova, who is still working his way back from Tommy John surgery. Then Tanaka felt something in his wrist and forearm a few weeks ago, and was shut down. The Yankees brought back Chris Capuano over the offseason, and he started the season on the disabled list, but he should be ready to join the team soon. Nova and Tanaka are also expected to return in the coming weeks, which means that there will be a lot of moving around within the rotation. Which pitchers should stay in the rotation, and which should make room for Capuano, Nova and Tanaka?
Naturally, the team wants the rotation to made up of the five best starters that they have. That isn't always so simple though, especially not with CC Sabathia (and his massive contract) on the team. Since Adam Warren is the pitcher who earned the fifth spot in the rotation, and Chase Whitley is filling in for Tanaka, they are the obvious choices. However, there are going to be three starters coming off of the DL and assuming that they do reach that point (fingers crossed), they might pull a third starter out of the rotation.
Of everyone in the rotation, Warren has had the least amount of success this year. He has made six starts, and the longest he's stayed in a game has been 5.2 innings. If he's not going to pitch well, the least he could do is give the Yankees length, but he hasn't been able to do that either, so he should be the first starter replaced. Whitley's numbers are somewhat skewed by yesterday's miserable outing where he gave up three home runs, but he only allowed one run in his previous two starts. Still, he doesn't have any seniority, so he'd likely be the second starter to be replaced by whoever comes off of the DL second. At this point, it appears that Capuano is the closest to returning. Tanaka has started throwing off of flat ground (with no reported pain), but Nova has been facing live batters, so Nova's return could happen before Tanaka's.
There is no doubt that the Yankees want Tanaka back in the rotation. Since they went out and signed Capuano to a one-year deal worth $5 million, it appears that they will at least give him a shot in the rotation. Then there's Nova, who has been a regular member of the rotation since 2011. Which means that if everyone ends up healthy at the same time, the Yankees would have to consider moving Eovaldi or Sabathia out of the rotation. Pineda is obviously safe, since he is clearly the ace of the staff at this point. Somewhat shockingly, Sabathia and Eovaldi's numbers are incredibly similar. Eovaldi has given up more walks and sports the better ERA, but the differential between FIP and ERA indicates that Eovaldi has gotten much luckier than Sabathia so far.
Since Eovaldi is younger and has velocity on his side, it might make more sense to move CC to the bullpen. Pitching fewer innings would likely be better for his knees, and maybe he would be more effective in shorter spurts. Of course, then the Yankees would have to clear room in the already packed-bullpen. If Whitley and Warren lost their rotation spots, there would probably only be room for one in the bullpen. The Yankees could get rid of Esmil Rogers and make Warren their long man, since he excelled in that position last year. Whitley would probably be sent back to Triple-A, to stay stretched out as an emergency starter. David Carpenter hasn't been terribly impressive so far, so it shouldn't be too hard to make room for Sabathia if need be.
Who do you think the five starters in the rotation should be once Chris Capuano, Masahiro Tanaka and Ivan Nova are all healthy?