The Yankees' starting rotation took another blow this week when Chase Whitley left his start early due to an elbow injury. Leading into the season one of the biggest concerns on the team was their lack of depth in the rotation due to the injury history of the starting five. With Masahiro Tanaka already on the DL and his replacement Whitley now joining him, those concerns appear to be warranted. This is a scenario that the Yankees could have helped to avoid by keeping Shane Greene around after he established himself as a useful arm in the back of the rotation last year. However, he was shipped out for shortstop Didi Gregorius this offseason. Considering Gregorius' poor start and the current state of the rotation, should the Yankees be kicking themselves?
When the trade went down last winter the general consensus was that it was a smart move. Trading a fifth starter for a starting shortstop, which Gregorius seemed to be, will always be seen as a no-brainer. Just two weeks into the season, though, the Yankees were probably feeling pretty silly. Pitching for the Tigers, Greene had twirled three gems, surrendering just one earned run and 12 hits in 23 innings of work. At the same time, Gregorius was floundering at the plate, hitting below .200 with just one walk, and was not performing as expected with the glove. It seemed clear that this was no ninja move by Brian Cashman and that it could even turn out to be a complete disaster.
After pitching like a Cy Young Award candidate in his first three starts, Greene came plummeting down to earth over his next three. He didn't make it past the fifth inning in any of them and got torched for a total of 20 earned runs. While this doesn't confirm that his first three starts were just a fluke, it is an indication that Greene's ideal role is in the back-end of the rotation, as the Yankees originally thought. Gregorius hasn't exactly turned it around since his forgettable debut in pinstripes, but he is showing signs of life. His weak batting average is due for a positive correction as indicated by line drive percentage, which has climbed to his career average of 20%, and BABIP, which is currently riding at about 20 points below his career number. It's also important to remember that Didi is just 25 years old and adjusting to a new league in the crucible that the AL East has become again, so his initial struggles shouldn't be all that shocking. What's also promising is that advanced fielding metrics agree that Gregorius has become above average with the glove at shortstop. Something the Yankees haven't seen for a long time.
So is a developing shortstop really worth the pitching depth that the Yankees sacrificed for it? It may be a few years before we know for sure, but the short answer is yes. The only option they currently have at shortstop outside of Gregorius is Stephen Drew. It's safe to say that most fans would take their chances with a young Didi than hand the keys over to a 30-something who has hit comfortably below .200 for about a year now. When it comes to the Yankees' dwindling rotation, reinforcements are on the way in the form of Chris Capuano, Ivan Nova and the rehabbing Tanaka. All three of those pitchers have proven that they are as good or better options compared to Greene. The Yankees may eventually see value in this trade, it'll just take a little patience.