The Tuesday Discussion: Assuming No Cole/Strasburg…Who?
This week we asked our writers:
Assuming the Yankees do not acquire Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg…
How would you address the Yankees’ starting rotation?
Is the rotation, as it stands, good enough?
Would you seek another free agent pitcher, If so who?
Is there a pitcher you would try to trade for? If so, who?
Here are their responses:
Paul Semendinger – More and more I am becoming a proponent of going for the ace-types that are not Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg. I very much want the Yankees to acquire Madison Bumgarner. That’s a given. In all of my research, I am also becoming quite excited by the possibility of Zack Wheeler. I think the Yankees need to add two top-of-the-rotation starters. That’s probably not possible if they sign the mega free agent. As such, I’d take Bumgarner and Wheeler.
Mike Whiteman – I would pursue a course of action similar to last off-season – one free agent and one trade.
Zack Wheeler would top my list of “second tier” free agent starters, with Madison Bumgarner very closely behind.
For the second starter, I’d pursue the trade route, as the Yankees look to have the minor league players to put together for a deal similar to the one Cashman pulled off for James Paxton.
An intriguing trade option that I’d kick the tires on if I’m the Yankee GM is Corey Kluber of Cleveland. A clean bill of health would obviously need to be confirmed, but a healthy Kluber could be a great addition to the rotation. He was an elite pitcher as recently as 2018, when he was 20-7, 2.89 and finished third in the Cy Young voting. He’s signed through this year, with a 2021 club option, which makes him very affordable. Now Cleveland won’t give a two-time Cy Young winner away, but the price for him may not be as much as a young controllable starter as they seem to be looking to get some salary off the books and need position player help.
Lincoln Mitchell – The problem the Yankees face is that they have two solid middle of the rotation starters in Tanaka and Paxton and one very unreliable potential ace in Severino. They also, like most teams, will patch together a decent back of the rotation, most likely from some combination of Happ, Montgomery or some low cost acquisition. The problem they have is that they don’t have a real ace. Therefore, adding rotation depth creates a logjam and will cost money but will not solve the real problem. The most obvious answer to your question is to add Madison Bumgarner, but there are more question marks around Bum that might immediately obvious. First, for the last three seasons, he has been a very good pitcher, but not an ace, so during the regular season, Bum is no longer good enough to be an ace pitcher on a contending team. Moreover, the transition from Oracle Park to Yankee Stadium, and from the NL West to the AL East could also raise challengers for the Yankees. Therefore, the logic behind signing Bum is based on his extraordinary postseason record-8-3 with a 2.11 ERA over 100 innings. However, Bum is now three years removed from his last postseason appearance, and those three years have not been good ones. So, adding Bumgarner gives the Yankees rotation depth for the season and a possible upside for the postseason. If the price is right, it may be worth adding Bumgarner, but fan expectations will likely outpace the reality of who he now is.
Despite this, Bumgarner is probably the best option the Yankees have. Zack Wheeler is only a year younger than Bumgarner and not as good. Hyun-Jin Ryu is probably better than both of them, but would only make sense on a short term contract. Even then, he is not quite the ace pitcher the Yankees need. Therefore, the Yankees either need to get one of the two aces, or bolster their bullpen and offense and then wait till the trade deadline.”
Jacob Gaba – The Yankees should only sign another pitcher if it’s for a lower amount of money. While someone like Zach Wheeler would be nice, it may cost too much to sign him. This is important because Tanaka and Paxton will soon be free agents, and we want to be able to get both of those guys back, especially Tanaka. The rotation as it stands will be good enough, as long as everyone stays healthy. The depth isn’t there, so if the Yankees need to sign a pitcher, and can’t get Cole or Strasburg, they should go for someone more under the radar compared to a Wheeler type.
Derek McAdam – If the Yankees fail to obtain the services of Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, I believe the best Plan B option is to trade for a starter. Trading for a starter is based on two big assumptions: Cole and Strasburg are the final two starting pitchers to sign, as well as Domingo German facing further disciplinary actions. I can see the Yankees possibly making a trade with a team in the AL Central, particularly the Chicago White Sox or the Cleveland Indians. For the Chicago White Sox, Lucas Giolito is the name that comes to mind. Giolito is coming off an All-Star season for the White Sox with a 3.41 ERA, posting 228 strikeouts in 176.2 innings pitched. This is Giolito’s only fantastic season so far, however he is only 25 years old and has plenty of potential. He will be a hard candidate to trade for, but if the Yankees start off a package with Estevan Florial, Chicago could be very interested. As for the Cleveland Indians, the pitcher that I suggest would not even be Corey Kluber, it would be Mike Clevinger who posted an ERA under 3.00 this past season, giving the Indians a valuable starter after Kluber went down with an injury. The one big downside to Clevinger is that he has battled injuries. He pitched 200 innings in 2018 but was only held to 121.2 and 126 innings during the 2017 and 2019 seasons, respectively. If Clevinger can stay healthy, he can be a top starter in the Yankees rotation.
Matthew Cohen – Right now, they have Luis Severino, James Paxton, Domingo German (when he returns from his suspension), Jordan Montgomery and Masahiro Tanaka. Those guys are all #3 starters or better. To improve on any of them, you need to sign an ace or #2 starter. It’s also worth considering that Tanaka and Paxton are free agents after 2020. The Yankees also have Happ, for what it’s worth. They also have Deivi Garcia (about whom I’m a skeptic at present) and Miguel Yajure (who has shown better control).
I like Zack Wheeler but I think that may get a lot of money and a lot of years from the team that gets shut out of the Cole and Strasburg bidding. I don’t think that he’s good enough to sign on a huge long term deal. Remember, you generally get roughly two years of peak performance on an ace before the decline starts. In short, I would likely stand pat if Cole and Strasburg are not available.
Patrick Gunn – The Yankees absolutely need some help with their starting rotation. Even with improved seasons from JA Happ and Masahiro Tanaka, they need James Paxton to stay consistent while relying on an inexperienced Jordan Montgomery and a disgraced Domingo German (who’s peripherals were not very strong last season and should regress). Not to mention that the Yankees are losing a massive veteran presence in CC Sabathia. Even with Deivi Garcia waiting in the wings at Scranton, the Yankees could use a veteran arm to provide quality innings and take stress off the bullpen. In terms of free agency, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Zack Wheeler are two talented arms that have both pitched in large markets that could fit well into the Bomber’s staff. Also, Alex Wood had a mostly lost season but pitched well for the Dodgers and Braves before 2019, so he could be a cheap acquisition that could pay dividends. As far as trades go, the Indians are a team that could contend or could try and build for the future. Maybe while the Yankees look into Francisco Lindor at shortstop they could also ask about Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, given that both pitchers had lesser seasons because of massive injuries. Also, the Yankees have made some deals with the Marlins in the past and Miami a talented arm in Caleb Smith if he’s available. Bottom line, the Yankees need starting rotation help and should be actively shopping for a solid starting pitcher.
Ed Botte – Assuming the Yankees do not acquire Gerrit Cole or Stephan Strasburg…. How would you address the Yankee starting rotation?
The current rotation has question marks and needs to retool.
Going into 2020 the obvious applies:
Severino, Tanaka, Paxton. Current candidates for the remaining slots in the rotation would be Happ, Montgomery, German, Chance Adams and Nestor Cortez.
I would consider moving Happ, although he is signed for $17 Million in 2020 he does have value to a contending team. The Yankees may need to absorb some of it. Jordan Montgomery will get a chance in March to prove he is healthy and a valid rotation consideration. Unfortunately, Domingo German is an unknown, as of November 11, 2019 we still do not know what his impending suspension will be, and if the Yankees even want to bring him back after the alleged domestic violence charges. Chance Adams should be moved, as he has not shown any of the 2018 success in the minors at the major league level. Nestor Cortez is a good swing man to keep.
Deivi Garcia and Michael King, who could be used as depth protection in the event of the inevitable injury will also be looked at closely in March, but probably need more time in the minors, I look for them as mid-season call ups.
Is the rotation, as it stands, good enough?
No, The rotation needs 2 new pieces.
Would you seek another free agent pitcher, if so who.
They need to add a top end starter, and I believe Madison Bumgarner checks all the boxes. If that falls through, calling Zack Wheeler is a fall back option.
Is there a pitcher you would try to trade for If so, who?
Being realistic, not many aces will be traded this off season. Chris Paddack could be made available in the right deal, and is still very young (23). He is a strike throwing machine with a WHIP below 1. Yes, he did give up 23 HRs in 2019, but who didn’t give up a lot of HRs in 2019?