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Yankees Potential Free Agent Target: Chris Tillman

Let’s not and say we didn’t.

Seattle Mariners v Baltimore Orioles
Yeah, signing me would be a head-scratcher
Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Three days ago, the Yankees offense was set. There was a bit of a question mark at designated hitter, but nothing that couldn’t be solved with a “revolving door,” considering their roster makeup. Then Brian Cashman basically traded a lamp for a Lexus in Giancarlo Stanton and the offense became what can only be described as double-set.

While we’re all still riding the Stanton high, the Yankees still have questions to answer about their starting rotation. At first the obvious fit was Shohei Ohtani but when he said no to the East Coast (and signed with the Angels???), the question went unanswered. The rotation currently projects to have Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, and Jordan Montgomery.

With no Ohtani, the popular theory was that the Yankees would go out and bring CC Sabathia back. While it was never a “sure thing” that Sabathia would return, he’s apparently taking meetings with other teams, and that can’t be a good sign.

If Sabathia’s looking elsewhere, the Yankees should start looking at other fallback options. Would Chris Tillman be a fit?

The answer to that question depends on what exactly the Yankees are looking for in a pitcher. If they just want a warm body, Tillman can provide that. If they don’t want to spend a lot of money, Tillman can provide that. If they want to win games, Tillman probably can’t provide that.

Tillman pitched in 24 games for the Orioles last season and started 19 of them. His final numbers on the year are...uninspiring (I think that’s the nicest word I’m allowed to use here). With 19 starts in 24 games, Tillman only managed to pitch 93 innings with a 7.84 ERA (55 ERA+), 6.93 FIP, all while giving up 24 home runs.

The numbers got that much worse when looking at him as a starter. In the rotation, Tillman managed an almost impressive 8.12 ERA and 7.06 FIP and gave up 23 of his 24 home runs as a starter. Looking at his numbers through the order help paint a picture as to why he wasn’t really that great as a reliever either.

When you’re managing ERAs of 7.97, 6.62, and 9.60 the first, second, and third time through the order respectively, it’s barely considered pitching at that point. It’s amazing that he was even allowed to start 19 games but then you remember the Orioles pitching staff and then amazing turns into just sad. Then you laugh again when you realize the Orioles didn’t even try for Ohtani because they disagree with the posting system “philosophically.” But I digress.

Tillman hasn’t always been this bad, though. Throughout his career he’s actually been good to average. If Tillman would agree to take on a minor league deal, then he’d actually be worth taking a flyer on. He can go to Triple-A and join the RailRiders and show that 2017 was an outlier of bad and then join the Yankees when he’s needed. If Tillman needs a major league guarantee, though, it should come from someone else. The Yankees just aren’t at a place where they’re looking for merely a warm body.

*Season statistics provided courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.