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  • Writer's picturePaul Semendinger

Perspectives: Pitching...

by Paul Semendinger

January 3, 2024

***

Boy, it is quiet on the Yankees front. Quiet. The hope is that it is quiet because they are working on a big trade for pitching or they have a free agent signing or two up their sleeves.


When I look at the Yankees' starting rotation, it looks to be a mess. Right now the Yankees don't truly have a #5 starter. The rest of the rotation is questionable , at best, after Gerrit Cole:


  1. Gerrit Cole - no concerns

  2. Carlos Rodon - had his worst season in 2023, was injured

  3. Nestor Cortes - had a bad season in 2023, was injured

  4. Clarke Schmidt - coming off a huge innings increase in 2023

  5. Unknown


That's a lot of questions marks. The Yankees need, I believe, two high quality starting pitchers.


The Yankees didn't want to pay Yoshinobu Yamamoto $325 million. That's their perogative. They'll be spending in other ways to make up what Yamamoto would have provided.


The Yankees will now have big costs one of three ways (or a combination of all three):


  1. They'll spend big money for a free agent pitcher

  2. They'll trade prospects for an established starting pitcher

  3. Without addressing the starting pitching, the Yankees are going to lose a lot of games (that's a cost, but it's a different kind of cost).

***

Last year the Yankees, in a very similar situation, never addressed left field. Day after day there were rumors and such, but no quality player was ever acquired. Instead, the Yankees trotted out a host of players, some playing out of position, and tried to make it work.


It didn't.


That was a failed strategy.


It will be worse if the Yankees try to address their starting rotation with longshot candidates, rehabbing pitchers, and the like. That approach is a disaster waiting to happen.


And because it seems to be the way the Yankees operate, that option, trying to sell the fans on pitchers who were once good, or who might be good, is the way I'm starting to believe they'll proceed. I hope not.

***

The best free agent at this point is Jordan Montgomery. He is a good pitcher. The Yankees should have never let him go.


He would give the Yankees quality innings - something they desperately need.


I just don't see a happy reunion taking place. It is awfully difficult to bring back a guy that the team clearly had very little use for. The Yankees traded Monty for an underperforming oft-injured outfielder (Harrison Bader) who was injured at the time of the trade.


When they traded Montgomery, the Yankees also said, "We don't see him as an option to pitch in the post season."


None of it made sense at the time. That trade had "disaster" written all over it.


And it was a disaster. But it's more than that now...


Be honest here, if you were in Jordan Montgomery's situation, would you want to go back to the Yankees? I wouldn't. The Yankees showed Montgomery tremendous disrespect. They basically said that he wasn't a good pitcher.


How would you feel if you were traded for a guy who was injured and wouldn't even play for a month? "We think so little of you that we're going to get a guy that can't even play, hey, once the playoffs come, it's not like we'd use you anyway."

***

I hated that trade from the start. A lot of people told me I was so so wrong.


Since the trade, Montgomery has been an important contributor to a World Series championship team.


Since the trade, Montgomery has accumulated 5.0 WAR. Harrison Bader had produced just 0.5 WAR. Monty wins that equation by 4.5 WAR.


Or, how is this?


Here's Harrison Bader's OPS+ broken down since the trade:


2022 NYY = 50

2023 NYY = 75

2023 CIN = 18


(Remember, and average MLB player earns a 100 on that scale. Bader isn't even close to being an average hitter. Those numbers are worse than bad.)


Here's Jordan Montgomery's ERA+ broken down since the trade:


2022 STL = 126

2023 STL = 127

2023 TEX = 160


(Yes, he's way above being an average pitcher, again, measured as 100 on this scale.)


OUCH. That was a very very bad trade at the start, and the results have proved that it was a terrible trade beyond any measure of any reasonable doubt.

***

Again, Jordan Montgomery would make the 2024 Yankees better, no doubt. I think it's a long shot, at best, for him to return to the Bronx though.

***

The other big free agent pitcher is Blake Snell. Yes, he's won two Cy Young Awards, but in the years that he hasn't won the award, he hasn't been very good. The Yankees need the Cy Young Snell, but it's more likely that the 2024 version is going to be far from that.


Blake Snell has had two really good seasons. He won the Cy Young Award both times. His other seasons... not so great. The 2024 Yankees need more than "not so great."


I shared this an fact the other day and I don't think some readers quite understood what I was saying. In short, Blake Snell is a very unique pitcher. Most top pitchers do well on a yearly basis. They find themselves among the league leaders. They have areas where they shine. Not Snell, for the most part.


The only time he's ever received a Cy Young vote is when he's won the award. He also doesn't find himself among the league's best when he's not pitching at the top of his game.


Here are the two time Cy Young Award winners since 1980 and the number of seasons in which they earned Cy Young Award votes:


Blake Snell - 2

Jacob deGrom - 6

Corey Kluber - 5

Roy Halladay - 7

Tim Lincecum - 4

Johan Santana - 6

Tom Glavine - 6

Bret Saberhagen - 3


That's my point. Exactly. Most top pitchers pitch well enough for Cy Young consideration even when they don't win the award, especially past winners. With Snell, that's never happened - and that is unique.


Further, the "Black Ink" test on Baseball-Reference shows the number of times a player led the league in a variety of important stats.


Here is how Blake Snell compares with that same list of pitchers in accumulated Black Ink:


Blake Snell - 16

Jacob deGrom - 12

Corey Kluber - 36

Roy Halladay - 48

Tim Lincecum - 21

Johan Santana - 42

Tom Glavine - 29

Bret Saberhagen - 20


Only the oft-injured Jabob DeGrom has a lower number. And those two are the outliers as compared to the other pitchers on the list.


It gets worse for Snell when one looks at the "Gray Ink" (the number of times the player has finished in the top 10 of the important categories):


Blake Snell - 38

Jacob deGrom - 92

Corey Kluber - 122

Roy Halladay - 180

Tim Lincecum - 84

Johan Santana - 122

Tom Glavine - 202

Bret Saberhagen - 127


All of this to say that, among players with two Cy Youngs, Snell is pretty unique. He is either pretty darn good or nothing very special.


I don't think he's the answer for the Yankees. At least not as the #2 guy. The Yankees need to do better there.

***

If the Yankees go the free agent route, Shota Imanaga presents as an interesting candidate.


His lifetime record in Japan is 74-55, 2.96.


But, Imanga is a question since he hasn't pitched in the Major Leagues. It would be asking a lot for Imanga to step in as the #2 pitcher on the staff.

***

If the Yankees fail to land any of those pitchers, they'll have to make a trade.

***

Shane Bieber is a name that has come up recently. He's a quality pitcher. If the Guardians are trading Bieber, he's a guy I'd be all-in on. He has a 60-32, 3.27 lifetime record. Even last year, a down year, his ERA+ was 110. His ERA+ has never been below 100 since his rookie year:


2018 = 95

2019 = 144

2020 = 273

2021 = 136

2022 = 131

2023 = 110


Bieber will only be 29-years-old - and he is signed for 2024 so he wouldn't be a long-term investment as a free-agent pitcher would. Maybe his upcoming free agency makes his cost in prospects lower.


Bieber is a guy who knows how to pitch. He's won a Cy Young Award (and had earned votes in two other seasons).


I'd love for Bieber to be wearing pinstripes in 2024.

***

The other trade candidates the Yankees have been linked to, Corbin Burnes and Dylan Cease, would also be great to acquire. I'm thinking the cost for Bieber would be lower in prospects. But, I'd be happy with any.

***

I keep hearing about the Yankees pivoting from the starting rotation and instead looking at acquiring Josh Hader and building up their bullpen again. My response to that is "Please, no."


If the Yankees go the route of the Super Bullpen, it will be because they failed to address the starting rotation. The Yankees have tried the Super Bullpen approach. It doesn't work. The Yankees always seem to have a very good to great bullpen, but they also seem to all be running on fumes by October.


I don't believe the Yankees have figured out how to ride a terrific bullpen to a World Series.

***

Maybe the Yankees can make a trade and sign a free agent to build a starting staff that can get them to the World Series.


Here's my plan at this point:


  1. Gerrit Cole

  2. One of Shane Bieber, Corbin Burnes, or Dylan Cease

  3. One of Jordan Montgomery, Blake Snell, or Shota Imanaga

  4. Carlos Rodon

  5. Nestor Cortes

  6. Clarke Schmidt


Now, that would be an impressive rotation. I am very hopeful that Rodon can bounce back big if he's not counted on to be at the top of the rotation. Imagine him as the #4 guy!

***

Hopefully in the days to come (I'm getting impatient), the Yankees address the starting rotation is a decisive way. There are still some good moves they can make.


But, with each passing day, that seems less and less likely.


And if the Yankees don't improve their rotation, winning in 2024 also seems less and less likely.

58 Comments


Cary Greene
Cary Greene
Jan 03

Here I go again. Wow. Every offseason, Cashman goes through a period which I've often written about. He runs silent and deep. He disappears from the radar. Gone. Where is the Yankees sub headed?

Like

Cary Greene
Cary Greene
Jan 03

Sorry to make so many posts tonight folks, but Yankees aren't rumored to be interested in Imanaga, per multiple sources. THAT news does impact our discussion today. Presuming he's off the table, where in the world is Cashman taking this franchise next? It's anyone's guess.


Rodriguez? Count me in on that and there are some consistent mentions of Yankees interest.


Otherwise? Snell? No Yankees buzz at all. Monty? Unlikely that he'd seriously want to come back. What he wants to do is seriously drive his market up so he can go back to Texas or perhaps to Boston and get paid. And we have the Luzardo rumors. Wowww.


Like

Cary Greene
Cary Greene
Jan 03

Yankees are being linked to the Marlins Jesus Luzardo. Yikes. that would cost Spencer Jones AND Roderick Arias. No thanks. Plus, Luardo has one pitch, a devestating 4-seamer with tons of run that he locates up and in to right-handed batters. He uses the 4-seamer 46% of the time and ALL of his other offerings (Slider, Change, Sinker) are awful.


Luzardo is projected to regress. Trading more than $63.3 million worth of prospect capital is just plain stupid. I hope the rumors are just that. Otherwise, Cashman needs to be fired.

Like
fuster
Jan 04
Replying to

Cashman is determined to snag Emilio Lizardo

Like

Cary Greene
Cary Greene
Jan 03

Personally, I think looking at last year's StatCast Pitch Values tells a whole lot more about a pitcher's stuff than looking back x amount of years does. While there is value in a player's historical data, it has to be equally weighted as part of a more in depth anaylsis. I also think projections take into account both history and the direction a pitcher's stuff is trending.


Therefore, pertaining to Blake Snell, his stuff was nothing short of electric last season, but his history is spotted with inconsistency and the projections services notice all of this. Steamers projects Snell to be a 3.3 fWAR starter next season. He's almost certain to regress a bit, likely turning from a staff ace…


Like
Cary Greene
Cary Greene
Jan 03
Replying to

Yes I think that's a fair counter to my post Paul, in all regards. Snell "might" repeat his ace-level 2023 performance in 2024 because even though projections are fairly accurate with normal players, they often fall conservatively short with star players, who have the ability to blow away projections in a given season.


While its likely that Snell regresses to a #3 starter's form, he could potentially be vastly better than what the projections are calling for, so there's that to consider as well.


Interestingly, projections seem to think both Snell and Monty will be about the same in terms of fWAR. Monty obviously toggled up his usage of his sinker once he left NY, going from using it 21.9%…


Like

Cary Greene
Cary Greene
Jan 03

Prediction: Monty to the Rangers or Red Sox. No way he's coming back to NY to play for Michael Fishman agan. Or, er, Aaron Boone. Or, whomever.

Like
Alan B.
Alan B.
Jan 04
Replying to

I've said all along once I found out about his wife - Montgomery is odds on favorite to goto Boston. And just because of her, isn't that enough of a reason?

Like
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