The Yankees have signed Matt Holliday and Aroldis Chapman to free agent deals for the 2017 season, however, they have yet to handle their rotation for next year. Right now, they have Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, and CC Sabathia with a collection of unproven backend options in the mix. Despite Brian Cashman’s insistence that he is tapped out on money and doesn’t expect the Yankees to make many more moves, he must do something to add a starting pitcher. Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura could offer exactly what they need.
The Kansas City Royals are in a place right now that could greatly benefit the Yankees. As good as they have been, many of their players are due to hit free agency after the 2017 season. They entered the offseason with one more year of control over Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Wade Davis, Lorenzo Cain, Jarrod Dyson, and Danny Duffy. It is likely that their window is closing and they could be better off getting what they can for their players now. The Royals just traded closer Wade Davis to the Cubs for Jorge Soler and are rumored to be shopping others. If they plan to shop Duffy or Ventura, the Yankees should be interested.
Duffy offers a one-year stopgap option for a rotation that is desperate for stronger pitching. The left-hander had his best season in 2016 at the age of 27. He managed a 3.51 ERA and 3.83 FIP over a career-high 179.2 innings and put up his best peripherals with a 9.4 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9, all making up a solid 2.8-WAR season. After years of inconsistency, it is encouraging to see such improvement from him as he heads toward the open market.
As far as drawbacks are concerned, Duffy has proven to be a flyball pitcher during the course of his career. His troublesome 41.6% flyball rate and 1.4 home run per nine innings has allowed him to survive in Kauffman Stadium, but those numbers could prove troublesome in the much smaller confines of Yankee Stadium. Duffy has also dealt with a series of arm, elbow, and shoulder injuries that have limited his innings over the years. It’s probably not something that will hurt his value while he’s actually on the mound, but a history like that makes him the perfect one-year addition without any long-term risk involved.
While he has yet to be made available, Ventura is likely someone the Royals will not mind giving up in the right deal. Despite a promising start to his career, the right-hander has increasingly struggled over the past three seasons in the rotation. Despite going from a 3.20 ERA in 2014 to a 4.08 ERA in 2015 and 4.45 ERA in 2016, Ventura possesses the type of velocity that the Yankees like to have in their pitchers. Like Nathan Eovaldi before him, New York could see Ventura as a pitcher they can turn around with a little help from Larry Rothschild.
The 25-year-old is signed to a long-term deal, but the Yankees can feel comfortable about taking him on long-term because his contract isn’t very expensive. He is due to make just over $3 million in 2017 with an additional $3 million being added each year until 2020, when his more expensive team option kicks in. The Yankees would have the ability to keep him an additional two years at $12 million each season if they are able to unlock the talent that he possesses. If not, he can be sent on his way without all that much risk in the long run.
Given that the Yankees will not have a rotation after the 2017 season, even a backend starter who is signed through the next few seasons would be a valuable commodity to have. While they might not want to spend the money and prospects it would take to add any long-term options, this team needs to do something that will help the team beyond this year. Ventura won’t be the savior, but he would be a useful complimentary piece to a bigger addition later or even a high-velocity reliever if nothing else works out.
I don’t want to pretend to know what the royals would want in a deal, but the Yankees do have the pieces in their system to make it happen. Between Duffy and Ventura, the Yankees could at least improve this year’s rotation, something they desperately need to do before the likes of Adam Warren and Luis Cessa are the best options they have. Luis Severino will certainly get another chance in 2017, but this team still needs some quality alternatives just in case.