Sizing up the Yankees Starting Rotation

Early this afternoon, the New York Yankees announced free agent J.A. Happ was returning to the team on a two-year contract with a vesting option for a third year. With Happ coming back, the Yankees now have six starting pitchers under contract for the 2019 season (although Sonny Gray most certainly won’t be returning to the team).

As of right now, the five man rotation seems to be shaping up as follows:

  1. Luis Severino
  2. James Paxton
  3. Masahiro Tanaka
  4. J.A. Happ
  5. CC Sabathia

It’s safe to assume GM Brian Cashman will still be looking to pick up another arm to add depth to the staff, especially since Sabathia’s balky right knee requires a DL stint to keep the pain at bay. Parker Bridwell, recently claimed on waivers from the Los Angeles Angels, was thought to be depth for the rotation. However, the team designated Bridwell for assignment, needing that spot on the 40 man roster for Happ.

Bridwell could always re-sign with the team on a minor league contract and accept a non-roster invitee, but he will be free to sign with any team.

There are still a good number of free agent starters available. Dallas Keuchel is still unsigned as of this writing, but with the Yankees already having three lefty starters, I would think they would look to add another righty for balance. I also think Cashman would prefer a less expensive option since the team will be paying north of 60 million just for the current five the team already has. A couple cheap options could be Clay Buchholz and Edwin Jackson. They both pitched very well for their teams this year and would assuredly be inexpensive in 2019. 45 year-old Bartolo Colon still wants to pitch. However, there are also a few guys in the Yankees system who could fill the role in Domingo German, Jonathan Loaisiga and Michael King. German and Loaisiga each showed promise as well as inconsistency in 2018, while King rose rapidly through the minors, starting in High-A Tampa and finishing with AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre.

All eyes are on the big free agents, waiting with baited-breath to see where Manny Machado and Bryce Harper will end up, but it will also be interesting to see how Brian Cashman shapes up the rest of the Yankees’ pitching staff.

Assessing the Market for Manny

The upcoming free-agent class of 2019 has been one of the most highly anticipated classes in a number of years, with the likes of Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Dallas Keuchel, among others. As MLB teams start to reveal themselves for who they are, whether GM’s deem themselves buyers or sellers, there is always speculation among the media and fans as to who could be traded to other teams who want to bolster their chances of reaching the playoffs.

Today, we’ll take a look at Manny Machado of the Baltimore Orioles. As of this writing, the Orioles are firmly embedded in the AL East basement, have lost eight of their last 10 games, and look ready to be dismantled and fired into the sun. The O’s are an aging team, and their farm system is almost bereft of prospects who legitimately have a chance of reaching the bigs. It would only make sense to trade Machado and start to re-stock their farm system.

Let’s take a look at a few teams who could could make a deal for him:

— The Los Angeles Dodgers: With regular shortstop Corey Seager out for the rest of 2018 with TJ surgery, the Dodgers are in a good position to make a trade with Baltimore for two or three months of Manny. I can’t see LA parting with the likes of Walker Buehler or Alex Verdugo for a “hired gun” of sorts, but Baltimore could easily have their pick of several B or C-rated prospects to help replenish their farm system.

— The Arizona Diamondbacks: The 1st place Dbacks are a very talented team with an excellent second year manager in Torey Luvullo. But they could use a strong bat at short because Nick Ahmed, slogging along with a .211 avg/.261 OBP just isn’t getting it done. I think Baltimore could get the best haul in this deal because Arizona would have reason to keep Manny for the long-term. There are several top prospects in Arizona’s system who the Orioles could make good use of, with the likes of Jon Duplantier, Pavin Smith, Jasrado Chisholm and Taylor Widener. Lastly, acquiring Machado would send a message to Dbacks players, telling them management believes in this team to get to the promised land.

 

— The Washington Nationals: Wait……what? No, I haven’t been drinking. This might be more of a hired gun situation like the Dodgers, but adding Manny for the stretch run could make for a lethal lineup along side Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and rookie Juan Soto. The idea here is to play Machado at short, shift regular shortstop Trea Turner to 2nd base (he does have experience there) and move Howie Kendrick to 1st base, replacing aging Ryan Zimmerman, who isn’t batting his weight (.217/.280/.409). With the lineup the Nats would have, coupled with their pitching, you have the class team of the National League.

The Nationals have a good number of prospects who could be sent to the O’s in return. OF Victor Robles, SS Carter Kieboom and RHP Erick Fedde come to mind.

— The New York Yankees:  There is no shortage of folks on my Twitter timeline who think the Yankees should acquire Manny, either now or over the winter when he will be a free-agent. I think that would be foolish, as the Yankees already have their infield set for the next generation (barring injury) with Miguel Andujar, Didi Gregorius, Gleyber Torres and Greg Bird. But yeah, for some folks enough is never enough.

 

I’ll assess more upcoming free-agents in future articles. 😎

Yankees Can Use Another Starter, But Who?

UPDATE (6-5-2018):  It was announced this afternoon that Jordan Montgomery will undergo Tommy John surgery, ending his 2018 season and probably the majority of 2019 as well.

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It’s almost Memorial Day, and we are almost 50 games into the regular season. The New York Yankees are one game behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East division. The next closest team (Tampa Bay Rays) is nine games back, and the Rays just traded Alex Colome and Denard Span to Seattle for minor league pitchers. It appears the AL East will likely become a two-horse race between Boston and New York.

Both the Red Sox and the Yankees are displaying a potent lineup that can overpower opponents. A stark difference between these two clubs is starting pitching. Chris Sale and David Price are perennial Cy Young Award candidates, and Rick Porcello won the AL Cy Young Award in 2016. All three can easily get deep into games every time out, and ease the strain Boston’s bullpen.

The Yankees have Luis Severino whom they can count on to give them innings and get deep into the game, but he’s the only one who has pitched consistently well. Masahiro Tanaka can be lights out when he is on his game, but he can also easily get pounded and is extremely home run prone. CC Sabathia has pitched well at times and doesn’t give up much hard contact, but he is averaging five innings per start, has allowed 15 runs in his last three starts and will be 38 years old soon. Sonny Gray has been very inconsistent with location, walking too many hitters and is also averaging five innings per start. Young Domingo German dazzled in his May 6 start against the Cleveland Indians, allowing no hits over six innings before leaving because he was on a pitch-count. Since then, he has allowed 12 runs in his following two starts, covering 8.2 innings. That’s not going to work when your rotation already isn’t getting deep into games.

With Jordan Montgomery out for at least another month or two, and with the lack of consistency in the current rotation, it would be interesting to see if Brian Cashman might swing a trade to acquire another proven starter to help shore things up. There are several starters who will be (or potentially could be) free-agents after 2018. Let’s take a look at a few of them:

 

Gio Gonzalez (WAS) – The 32 year old southpaw is set to be a free-agent after 2018. He has pitched well this season in Washington (5-2, 2.38 ERA, 1.32 WHIP), but has had bouts of inconsistency with location. Gonzalez walks an average of 4.1/9 IP and routinely reaches 100 pitches after five innings. That wouldn’t fit well with a team who desperately needs a starter who can give length. Plus the Nationals are a contending team who likely wouldn’t look into making a trade unless their season went off the rails.

Fit for Yankees? Unlikely.

 

Lance Lynn (MIN) – The 30 year old righty has a reputation as an consistent innings-eater from his days with the Cardinals, but he’s been anything but in Minnesota. He signed a one year/12 million dollar deal late in spring training, and didn’t have much time to get in shape. To date, Lynn’s numbers are terrible (2-4, 6.34ERA, 1.86 WHIP) and is walking over 6 batters per nine innings.

Fit for Yankees? Not likely.

 

Patrick Corbin (AZ) – The 28 year old Corbin, a Syracuse native, grew up a Yankees fan. He’s pitched to the tune of a 4-1, 2.60 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and is averaging 6.2 innings per start. His walk rates are down and strike-out rates are up from last season, and he’s allowing a paltry 5.6 hits/9 innings. I think he’s probably the best choice of all the soon to be free agents, and Yankees GM Brian Cashman has made several good deals with the Arizona Diamondbacks in the past.

Fit for Yankees? TRADE FOR HIM ALREADY!

 

Brandon McCarthy (ATL) – Back in July 2014, Cashman swung a trade with Arizona to acquire McCarthy from the Dbacks for Vidal Nuno. It ended up being a steal, as McCarthy pitched very well in his three months in the Bronx, helping them stay in the playoff hunt until the last part of the season. The tall righty will be 35 in July, but still appears to have plenty in the tank. On the surface, McCarthy’s numbers aren’t great (5-2, 4.67 ERA, 1.57 WHIP), but two very ugly back to back starts in early May have skewed the numbers. I would think the Braves would gladly take a lower-level prospect or two for McCarthy, especially if they start to drop in the standings.

Fit for Yankees? Yes, as long as he stays healthy (which could be problematic).

 

Matt Harvey (CIN) – On May 8th, the 29 year old Dark Knight was swept out of Queens when the Mets traded Harvey to the Cincinnati Reds, ending his tumultuous stint with the Metropolitans. He hadn’t been the same since the end of 2015 due to injuries and his well documented problems with the team and it’s management didn’t help his cause. Since the trade, Harvey is 1-0, 2.57/0.93 WHIP, and his fastball velocity has rebounded, touching 97 mph in his May 22nd start against the Pirates. His 2018 overall stats still look ugly, but maybe this trade was the wake-up call he needed. If Harvey pitches well for the next two months, the Reds could easily flip him to a contending team looking to shore up it’s pitching. You know, like the Yankees.

Fit for Yankees? I don’t see it happening, given what’s happened over the last couple years in nearby Flushing, but stranger things have happened.

 

Clayton Kershaw (LAD) – Kershaw has an opt-out in his contract that could enable him to become a free-agent after the season, which should have some teams looking for Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi’s phone number. Currently on the DL with biceps tendonitis, Kershaw has missed time with various injuries in four of the last five seasons. When healthy, he’s pitched as well as ever, and at 30 years of age, is still in his prime. Kershaw’s stat-line (1-4, 2.86 ERA, 1.13 WHIP) shows how useless win-loss records are, and he’s still racking up strikeouts at close to his normal rate (9.8/9 innings). It makes for fun speculation, but I don’t see Kershaw leaving LA, whether he becomes a FA after this year or next.

Fit for Yankees? OF COURSE, but I don’t see it happening.

 

Bartolo Colon (TEX) – He just turned 45 yesterday, but Colon is still painting like Picasso! Granted, he didn’t look all that great against the Yankees on May 21, but for all things considered, he’s eaten innings pretty effectively. Colon (2-2, 3.51, 0.92 WHIP) would come cheaply if the Texas Rangers found a suitor for him.

Fit for Yankees? Possible, but not probable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will the Dominos Start to Fall?

This MLB offseason has been one of the slowest I can ever remember, which is painstaking for big baseball fans. If it weren’t so cold, you would be able to hear the crickets chirping.

However, it looks like the dominos may start to fall. Last week, the Milwaukee Brewers signed Lorenzo Cain to a 5 year, 80 million dollar deal and also traded for Christian Yelich in a deal with the Miami Marlins. It appears the Chicago Cubs are the favorites to sign free agent starter Yu Darvish some time this week.

In past years, once the bigger free agents start to find teams to play with, it triggers a frenzy of signings and rosters start to shape up for the upcoming season. Still available are big names such as:

Jake Arrieta

Eric Hosmer

Mike Moustakas

J.D. Martinez

Todd Frazier

And that is just a sampling of players who still don’t have a team with the beginning of Spring Training less than three weeks away. I have a feeling things will finally start to give. Players and teams both will likely be more willing to compromise as time winds down.