The only member of the Yankee rotation who is currently guaranteed to be under contract for 2018 is Luis Severino. Needing to fill the spots around him internally or on the free agent market will be something the team needs to consider in the near future with Masahiro Tanaka, Nathan Eovaldi, and Michael Pineda all having the ability to hit free agency before long.
Which pitcher in their current rotation the Yankees should try to keep around has kind of varied over the last couple of seasons. It seemed, at first, like there should be no circumstance under which the Yankees let Tanaka exercise his opt-out clause and hit free agency. Then his UCL partially tore and the dominant results became less truly dominant.
Pineda's Mother's Day performance in 2015 against the Orioles looked like it would be a launching pad for all the promise that caused the Yankees to trade for Pineda in the first place. He can look so great on the mound sometimes, and then he can also look so maddeningly bad. You never know which Pineda is going to be there on any given day, and his history with injuries doesn't help his case.
The wild card in all of this has been Eovaldi. His fastball is pretty much as impressive as they come, but the Yankees knew he'd be a bit of a project for pitching coach Larry Rothschild when trading for him. Eovaldi put together a stretch after getting completely torched in Miami last year in which he was arguably the Yankees' best starter until an elbow injury prematurely ended his season.
So far in 2016, Eovaldi has put together the best start of any member of the rotation with his no-hit bid against Texas. His ERA is higher than Tanaka's, but their FIPs aren't far off from each other. The other obvious thing Eovaldi has going for him is that his elbow isn't the ticking time bomb that Tanaka's seems to be. Yes, Tanaka is healthy for now, and the Yankees have certainly invested a lot of money in him. However, despite his PRP treatment, it doesn't seem like anyone would be surprised if his UCL eventually gives way and requires surgery.
Giving out extensions really hasn't been the Yankees' MO, and they may not want to change that for a pitcher who hasn't been consistently dominant. However, losing four out of five members of the rotation in the next two years without a lot of security via the farm system or free agency could prompt them to take action.
We have wondered before whether or not the team should extend Pineda or Eovaldi, but the answer seems pretty clear for now at least. Eovaldi seems to be the safer bet for the team to keep around, should they choose to try and mitigate some of the turnover in the rotation. Certainly of the three, he would be the one I would personally choose to bank on over the next couple seasons.
The Yankees don't need Eovaldi to be their ace, and they don't need to pay him as such. That's the kind of price tag Tanaka will demand going forward, especially if he is healthy until he opts out. Keeping Eovaldi around could be a bit of a bargain for a guy with the potential he has shown, and it's worth keeping in mind that he is still working to improve his secondary pitches in order to have them play better off his scorching fastball.
It seems worth it for the team with pockets as deep as the Yankees to obtain an insurance policy on losing nearly everyone in their rotation. The only player there worth extending, in my opinion, is Eovaldi. It seems like a lot of fans seem to lump Eovaldi and Pineda together into one super pitcher, but that is not the case.
Eovaldi has been more consistent for longer stretches than Pineda. He has also been healthier with only the minor elbow situation cropping up, even though he would have been available if the Yankees made it to the ALDS last season. His start in Texas against a team that is no pushover shows what he is capable of, and his run as one of the best pitchers on the team late last year should further cement that.
Do you think the Yankees should pull the trigger on extending one of their starters? Who would you prefer it to be if they do?