James Shields is reportedly on the verge of signing with a team, but the Yankees don't appear to be in pursuit, based on Brian Cashman's comments in a Friday interview with WFAN's Mike Francesa. It appears increasingly likely that the Yankee pitchers who will be reporting to Tampa for the start of spring training are all already members of the organization. The expected opening day starting rotation remains Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Capuano.
In all likelihood though, the Yankees will need more than five starting pitchers this season. Assistant general manager Billy Eppler confirmed in a call with Chad Jennings that Adam Warren and Esmil Rogers have been asked to prepare as starting pitchers heading into spring training. Both players are likely to open the season in the bullpen, barring injuries to the current starting five, but Eppler did say the Yankees would keep an open mind about either pitcher possibly earning a rotation spot even if everyone remains healthy.
Rogers preparing as a starter is certainly no surprise as he was likely to serve as a long reliever and potential spot starter. After Adam Warren's successful 2014 as a relief pitcher, an argument could have been made for leaving him to focus on pitching shorter stints but as Harlan pointed out on here before the Yankees have enough reliever depth to give Warren another shot this spring to return to a starting role. If Warren does pitch well enough in spring to push Capuano for the fifth rotation spot, even an adequate performance as a back-end starter would be more valuable than any contribution in middle relief. There is reason to think he may be able to contribute as a starter, particularly with the variety of pitches that he threw even out of the bullpen.
It's one thing to ask a pitcher to prepare for a starter workload heading into spring training, and another to have a reasonable expectation that they might actually be needed in the rotation. In this case though, I think the Yankees might be somewhat in the latter category with Warren and Rogers, with both potentially necessary as depth options. The Yankees do have Scott Baker on a minor league deal available as an option, but it's best not to set expectations for a potential rebound candidate like Baker. In any case, he may only be a depth option for the first part of the season. Eppler confirmed that Baker does have an opt-out clause should he not make the major league team by a specified point in the year, though Eppler didn't reveal the date. Ivan Nova, hopefully coming back from Tommy John surgery by June, could be expected to more than make up for the loss of depth from a Baker opt-out. Though, as Baker himself proved, pitchers do not always recover fully from Tommy John surgery. Even if Nova returns to previous form he may not do so until 2016 at earliest.
Beyond the question marks that come with Scott Baker and Ivan Nova, the Yankees have few internal options. Bryan Mitchell and Chase Whitley both have major league service time on their resumes, and the Yankees might hope for one of these two, particularly Mitchell, to overacheive on their prospect status the way Shane Greene did last season. It seems too much to hope for lightning to strike twice here though, so at this point it's best to consider the realistic possibility of Adam Warren or Esmil Rogers serving as the Yankee sixth man. Should one of the current starting pitchers go down with injury at any point, Warren or Rogers could be looking at an extended stretch in the rotation.