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Robbie Ray could increase the Yankees’ pitching floor

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Arizona is open to moving the left-hander, and New York could use the depth

MLB: San Diego Padres at Arizona Diamondbacks Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees are actively looking for trade partners, and one of the first potential sellers of the offseason may have been found. The Arizona Diamondbacks are reportedly open to selling on starter Robbie Ray a year away from free agency eligibility, and he could be a good option for the Yankees to add at the bottom of their rotation.

Ray tied his career-high in innings pitched with 174.1 in 2019, and picked up a personal best 235 strikeouts. He has the potential to be a key power pitcher, but what has held back his performance throughout his career has been his high amount of walks allowed. Ray walked 84 batters last season, good for a 4.3 BB/9. That has to go down if Ray has any hopes of developing into a number two-type pitcher.

Walks withstanding, Ray still represents an upgrade for the Yankees compared to what the bottom of their rotation gave them. CC Sabathia gave the Yankees whatever was left in the tank in his final MLB season, but age had clearly caught up to him. Sabathia pitched just over 100 innings, and surrendered a career-high 2.3 HR/9 leading to a 4.95 ERA. J.A. Happ wasn’t much better, pitching to a 4.91 ERA in 161.1 innings and surrendering 1.9 HR/9.

As presently constructed, the Yankees have Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and Domingo German returning for 2020. The Yankees are in pursuit of one of the top-tier pitching options on the free agent market, including Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg. That would give them a starting five, but they would be wise to prepare beyond that even if they do sign a big name.

German may or may not be ready for the start of the season, depending on the ruling of MLB regarding his suspension for a domestic violence incident, and the options behind him include Jordan Montgomery coming off of Tommy John surgery, Luis Cessa coming off of the first decent season he’s had in the majors, and the opener Chad Green. There are promising arms coming close to the majors that could develop into starters, but the Yankees are built to compete now instead of banking on development at this point.

If they decided to move him, Ray would be the second recent piece that Arizona has sold off with one year left on his contract. Arizona traded Paul Goldschmidt to the Cardinals last offseason for a package consisting of pitcher Luke Weaver, catcher Carson Kelly, infielder Andy Young, and a compensatory draft pick. Weaver and Kelly were the headliners in the deal and were both former top prospects, but Goldschmidt was a higher-profile trade acquisition. Ray could go for less, possibly centered around a pitching prospect like Albert Abreu, but interest from other teams could drive the price back up. Depending on the bidding, the Yankees could enter the waters for Ray and get a solid insurance option while they entice the big fish on the market.