About the Off-Season: Rumors About the Starting Rotation
By Tim Kabel
November 26, 2022
Re-signing Aaron Judge is the Yankees’ top priority this offseason. They have made that clear and they are going through the process to do so. Judge met with the San Francisco Giants earlier this week but, we knew he was going to do that all along. He will probably meet with other teams. He is a free agent, and this may be his only opportunity to go through the process, at least at the height of his earning potential. He has the right to hear as many offers as he wants. I am still confident the Yankees will be the team that signs him when all is said and done. The Yankees have also made it clear that re-signing Judge is not the only move they plan to make.
According to John Heyman of the New York Post, the Yankees have targeted three pitchers to replace Jameson Taillon: Justin Verlander, Japanese star pitcher Kodai Senga, and Carlos Rodon, formerly of the San Francisco Giants. Any of those three would be a significant upgrade over Taillon and would dramatically strengthen the Yankees’ starting rotation.
Justin Verlander is the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner and a member of the World Series champion Astros. Verlander will turn 40 years old in February. However, he had an incredible year last year after returning from Tommy John surgery. It is reasonable to believe he is capable of at least one or two more excellent seasons. Signing him would also greatly weaken the Astros. There is some speculation that he would be more likely to sign with the Mets, possibly replacing Jacob deGrom and reuniting with Max Scherzer. The cost to sign Verlander would be tremendous, although it would only be for a one- or two-year contract.
Senga, who will turn 30 in January, went 11-6 with a 1.94 ERA, and 156 strikeouts in 144 innings. He is a free agent and there is no posting fee attached to him. The Yankees, Red Sox and other teams have reportedly already reached out to him. The Yankees had success in signing Masahiro Tanaka and Hiroki Kuroda in the past. They also attempted to sign Shohei Ohtani but as we all know, he went to the Angels. Senga is considered an ace, who could definitely help any Major League team.
Carlos Rodon will be 30 years old in December. He put together two consecutive dominant years in 2021 and 2022. He is also left-handed, which would nicely balance the Yankees starting rotation. In 2022, he was 14-8 with a 2.88 earned run average and 237 strikeouts in 178 innings. He has never pitched in New York, and it is unclear how he would adapt to the city but, that is something that you never know until it's too late to do anything about it.
Of the three pitchers, Verlander seems to be the least likely to become a Yankee. He will probably return to Houston but, that is not guaranteed. He is also the biggest risk due to his age, as you never know when a player will have a decline in their abilities. The salary he would command may also be prohibitive. If Hal Steinbrenner wants to show that he really has something in common with his father other than their last name, signing Verlander would certainly prove that. It is not out of the question, but Verlander seems to be the least likely of the three to become a Yankee.
Rodon has some injury history and up until 2021, he had never really put things together. The reality is there have been many pitchers who took a while to develop. Signing him to a four- or five-year contract might prove to be worth it. Again, the fact that he is left-handed and would be pitching in Yankee Stadium would be an advantage. Putting him together with Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes, Luis Severino, and Frankie Montas would give the Yankees a very impressive rotation.
Senga is something of a wild card but, as we have all seen, the top pitchers in Japan generally do well playing in America. He would probably be the least expensive of the three. Based on his history, he would slot in nicely behind either Cortes or Severino. He would definitely be an upgrade over Jameson Taillon.
Because Frankie Montas suffered from injuries and inconsistency in his brief time as a Yankee, he is an uncertain commodity. It would be nice to have another top-flight starter, so relying on Montas would not be essential.
I believe the Yankees will sign either Rodon or Senga and I have a feeling that Senga is the more likely of the two. Either way, I definitely see the Yankees upgrading the starting rotation through free agency.
I suspect that if they make a trade and send Gleyber Torres away, they will likely receive a relief pitcher or two in exchange. The Yankees have traded away a lot of their top minor league pitching prospects recently so, I doubt they will go that route for another starter. As far as trading position player prospects, I believe the Yankees plan to have Oswaldo Cabrera, Oswald Peraza, and Anthony Volpe all playing on the Major League team in the very near future.
Other than re-signing Judge, the most glaring needs for the Yankees are an everyday leftfielder, another starting pitcher, and one or two relief pitchers. I suspect they will turn to free agency to address the leftfielder and the starting pitcher. Kodai Senga could very well be the answer in the starting rotation.