Should They Stay or Go? (SP)
The Yankees have a lot of decisions to make this offseason, one could say there's bound to a "clash" of opinions. Let's talk about it.
Today I will be discussing the Yankees main starting pitchers.
Bold statistics led Yankees
2022 Statistics: 33 Games Started, 13-8 Record (.619 WP%), 3.50 ERA (111 ERA+), 200.2 IP, 257 K's (11.5 K/9), 1.017 WHIP (3.47 FIP), +2.4 bWAR/+3.3 fWAR
Contract Status: Signed through 2028* with 6 Years/$216 Million remaining
(*Cole does have a player opt-out after 2024)
You don't have to excuse my music pun in the tagline of this series of posts, though I do feel the need to indicate that Gerrit Cole's nickname "Cole Train" is a play on words of the name of the famous jazz musician John Coltrane. Now, with all that addressed, I'll get to talking about baseball.
This past season, Gerrit Cole set a New York Yankees single season record by striking out 257 batters. This beat the previous season-high of 248 set by Ron Guidry in 1978. (Gerrit Cole nearly beat this record in 2021 when he struck out 243 batters.) Though, even with this record now in the books, Gerrit Cole was a bit of a disappointment as the ace of the pitching staff. His 3.50 ERA was the highest he put up in a season since 2017, and (as you'll see with many of his major statistics) was his highest as a Yankee. Cole also won games at the lowest clip (.619 WP%) since 2017, and his lowest rate as a Yankee. Echo this with his ERA+, K/9, and bWAR. Just looking at his time as a Yankee, Cole allowed his most home runs in a season (at 33, which also lead the American League), had his most hits and walks allowed, had his lowest K-BB rate, and his lowest fWAR. If you also consider each WAR to be worth about $9 Million on the open market, his $36 Million contract was an overpay by bWAR (2.4 bWAR = $21.6M) and fWAR (3.3 fWAR = $29.7M).
This isn't to say he wasn't good. He was. Part of why he allowed a lot of hits, walks, and home runs because he was one of 8 pitchers in the MLB to reach 200 innings pitched. To do that in the modern game, he also led the America League in games started with 33. That's a very impressive statistic in an era of micromanagement across the board. When you look at his rates-per-nine for each of hit (6.9), walks (2.2), strikeouts (11.5), and even home runs (2.2) they are not incredible outliers. The problem is that this was Cole as a 31 year old, while showing a sustained yearly regression since his incredible 2019 season.
The Verdict: Gerrit Cole is not going anywhere. He is trending in the wrong direction, and it may also be time to reconsider his role as the ace. He is a workhorse. Plenty of pitchers have found new stuff while going into their 30's and now is not a time for concern. Though, the Yankees will need him to improve going forward if they want to seriously compete.
2022 Statistics: 28 Games Started, 12-4 Record (.750 WP%), 2.44 ERA (159 ERA+), 158.1 IP, 163 K's (9.3 K/9), 0.922 WHIP (3.13 FIP), +4.2 bWAR/+3.6 fWAR
Contract Status: Heading into Arbitration 1; Under control through 2025
Nestor Cortes proved me wrong in 2022. If I was the general manager going into the season, I would've put Nestor on the trade block immediately after his 2021 season. After pitching to a 2.90 ERA and being the breakout star on the team, I figured he'd have a large regression to the mean and shipping him out then would've netted the most value. Like I said, he proved me wrong. The Yankees were smart to keep him around.
Nestor Cortes was the best pitcher (starter or reliever) that the Yankees had from this past season. He posted a 2.44 ERA (159 ERA+) which led all but one Yankee who pitched 50 or more innings (Michael King had a 2.29 ERA over 51.0 innings) and winning percentage for those who had 5 or more decisions (Miguel Castro went 5-0). Nestor also led all Yankees pitchers in WHIP, bWAR, fWAR.
The lone problem with Cortes from this past season was that he didn't pitch enough innings to qualify as a starting pitcher at the end of the year. However, across pitchers in the MLB who pitched 150 innings in 2022, Nestor Cortes had the 7th best ERA, 3rd best WHIP, 18th best FIP, the 17th best bWAR and the 21st highest fWAR.
The Verdict: The Yankees have seemingly found themselves a solid #2 in the rotation in Nestor Cortes. I'm not ready to call him an ace, though it is hard to ignore what he did this season. I just hope his groin injury in Game 5 of the ALCS (he had another in August) can be dealt with this offseason and not be a looming problem going forward. Hey, I not don't think he should be traded anymore and he's a starting pitcher I'm look forward to seeing more on the mound.
2022 Statistics: 32 Games Started, 14-5 Record (.737 WP%), 3.91 ERA (100 ERA+), 177.1 IP, 151 K's (7.7 K/9), 1.128 WHIP (3.94 FIP), +1.2 bWAR/+2.3 fWAR
Contract Status: Set to be a Free Agent
The first real decision player on the list, Jameson Taillon is scheduled to become a free agent this offseason. There will be questions about what type of future contract Taillon is worthy of. Could he be a qualifying offer ($19.65M) candidate? A short-term, high AAV guy? Long-term, low AAV? There are many different schools of thought here.
Taillon was a solid mid-rotation starter for the Yankees this season. He was a perfectly average pitcher when it comes to the statistics: 3.91 ERA (100 ERA+) with a 1.128 WHIP. His 3.94 FIP also indicates that he was neither lucky nor unlucky by the stats this year. Taillon also deserves a lot of credit for pitching 177.1 innings, which ranked 33rd overall in the MLB. All that being said, however, Taillon's playing works much better as a back-end innings-eating starter as opposed to a mid-rotation man. And, given the extensive injury history for Taillon, it's unlikely that he'll age well as an innings-eater. (Outside of 2022, he's only passed 150 innings in a season once, in 2019 with 191.0.)
When it comes to bWAR, Taillon was worth about $10.8 Million in 2022, while fWAR would indicate a market value of $20.7 Million. Spotrac comes up with a market value of about $14.5 Million AAV on a contract.
The Verdict: Jameson Taillon is a very interesting case for the Yankees, and how they address him will be telling about how they want to continue to address a roster with (many) holes. Taillon has been a fine Yankee. I'd offer him the qualifying offer with the expectation that he'd decline for more security. Taillon could be a fine pitcher over a 3-4 year $45-60 Million contract. My problem would be if the Yankees pay him any more or give him a longer deal than that. The need to get more left-handed and there are other better risky picks to go after for similar value. Look towards guys like Tyler Anderson (is he for real?), Jose Quintana (injury history), and Marin Perez (massive outlier 2022) instead.
2022 Statistics (Combined): 27 Games Started, 5-12 Record (.294 WP%), 4.05 ERA (94 ERA+), 144.1 IP, 142 K's (8.9 K/9), 1.247 WHIP (2.79 FIP), +1.1 bWAR/+2.0 fWAR
2022 Statistics (NYY): 8 Games Started, 1-3 Record (.250 WP%), 6.35 ERA (62 ERA+), 39.2 IP, 33 K's (7.5 K/9), 1.538 WHIP (4.93 FIP), -0.6 bWAR/+0.1 fWAR
Contract Status: Heading into Arbitration 3; Under Contract through 2023
Speaking of left-handed pitching, we get to the biggest disappointment of the season. The Yankees got rid of a left-handed pitcher (in Jordan Montgomery) to bring in this guy. There is no way to sugarcoat it. Let's put it this way:
The Yankees traded Ken Waldichuk and JP Sears (alongside some other prospects) for Montas. Both of them pitched with the Oakland Athletics this year. Both of them pitched better for the A's than Montas did for the Yankees. Both of them pitched better even though JP Sears (who was the Yankees secret starting pitching weapon) pitched to a 4.69 ERA and Ken Waldichuk had a 4.93 ERA.
Frankie Montas was an absolute disappointment as a Yankee. His overall statistics (helped mightily by his playing predominantly in the Oakland Colosseum) are below average for a pitcher in the MLB and the Yankees paid a nice premium for him.
The Verdict: The Yankees are not going to cut ship with Montas after just 39.2 innings. However, he will need to vastly improve if he wants to last. Hopefully he'll be able to find his way in Yankee Stadium, but if he continues to underperform I would be quickly looking for a solution next year.
2022 Statistics: 19 Games Started, 7-3 Record (.700 WP%), 3.18 ERA (123 ERA+), 102.0 IP, 112 K's (9.9 K/9), 1.000 WHIP (3.70 FIP), +1.6 bWAR/+1.4 fWAR
Contract Status: Yankees have a $15 Million Team Option for 2023 ($2.75 Million buyout)
To his credit, Luis Severino put up good numbers in 2022. A 3.18 ERA, 123 ERA+, and a perfect 1.000 WHIP are all good numbers. The only problem is that Severino pitched just 102.0 innings. The other problem is that since 2019, Severino has pitched a combined 120.0 innings. Regardless of what you want to say about his performance when he is on the mound, he is not one who has shown that he can stay on the mound.
We can hope that 2022 is a step back in the right direction for Severino, yet in 2022 alone he ended up going on the IL 2 separate times. This is a little unfair as the first was a COVID-IL appearance for one day (as they awaited a test), though the second was a right lat strain that kept him out from July 14th until September 21st.
The Verdict: Can he stay healthy? What could only be if he could. The Yankees will tempt fate (yet again) and pick up his $15 Million team option. Even if he pitches just 100 innings at the same rate, he'll be nearly worth it by market value (1.6 bWAR = $14.4 Million; 1.4 fWAR = $12.5 Million). If the Yankees want to be really crazy (and if they believe a lot in Severino), it may be worthwhile to dangle a 5-year/$62.5 Million extension in front of him. Call me crazy, but it's just an idea.
2022 Statistics: 14 Games Started, 2-5 Record (.285 WP%), 3.61 ERA (108 ERA+), 72.1 IP, 58 K's (7.2 K/9), 1.161 WHIP (4.44 FIP), +0.7 bWAR/+0.7 fWAR
Contract Status: Heading into Arbitration 2; Under Control through 2024
It is time to trade Domingo German. He missed the entire 2020 due to poor decision making at and after a charity gala hosted by CC Sabathia, then he missed about 2 months during the 2021 due to poor play in April and then a right shoulder injury in August, and in 2022 he missed 4 months with another right shoulder injury from mid-March until mid-July.
When he plays, much alike Luis Severino, he's a good enough pitcher that he has some value. That being said, I'm tired of him being a Yankee. They've relied on him far too much after a 2019 campaign where he ran into a bunch of lucky wins. This sounds odd as he's pitched just 170.2 innings since then, but each year they talk about having enough starting pitching depth because of German. Problem is, they no longer have minor league options to hide him away.
Just get rid of him. Getting rid of the crutch will force the Yankees to go after and create a true starting rotation with true depth.
The Verdict: Truthfully, I have no idea what the plan may be for German heading into 2023. I can only hope the lack of minor league options gives the Yankees pause when considering him as starting pitching depth. Please, just trade him to Miami.