To Keep or Not to Keep: Michael King
by Ethan Semendinger
June 23, 2021
Over the next month as we begin to approach the 2021 Trade Deadline season, Ethan will be taking you through most of the Yankees MLB talent (including those on the IL) and his give opinions on what he would do if he ran the team and on what the Yankees will likely do.
Today we’ll be discussing Michael King.
MLB Postseason/Division/WS Odds for the New York Yankees (2021): Preseason: Fangraphs – 91.3%/71.0%/17.5% BBRef – 84.0%/63.1%/11.8% 538 – 83%/60%/14% On June 14th: Fangraphs – 44.5%/14.4%/5.7% BBRef – 19.3%/0.9%/0.8% 538 – 37%/8%/3%#Yankees #StartSpreadingtheNews — Start Spreading The News (@NYY_Report) June 14, 2021
Understanding This Series:
At the beginning of this series, the Yankees currently sit with a 33-32 record, are 4th in the AL East (8.5 GB of the Rays), and are 6th in the AL Wild Card race (4 GB of the Astros). If they want to win 93 games this season (what they’d likely need for a wild card spot) they’ll have to play .618 baseball, a winning percentage of which just 2 teams (Rays and White Sox) are currently playing at. In this series we’re not believing that the Yankees, under their current roster construction and self-inflicted restrictions, have a shot at the playoffs. Thus, we’re looking at the 2021 Trade Deadline as a place to sell and to look towards 2022 and the future for this team.
Michael King Background:
Acquired by the Yankees from the Miami Marlins as part of a small trade with international bonus money in 2017 for Garrett Cooper and Caleb Smith (both who were/are productive major leaguers for Miami), Michael King was a lower-end Yankees Top-30 prospect for a few years in the Yankees farm system, ranking 22nd at the end of 2018 and 19th at the end of 2019 before exceeding his rookie eligibility in 2020.
In a 2020 season marked with no minor leagues, Michael King- due to his solid prospect status, ability to start, and already being in Triple-A- was a member of the alternate training site. This helped him get into a fair amount of games as injuries that the Yankees had to pitchers allowed him to get his first MLB start, though his 2020 season was not much of a success as he pitched to a 7.76 ERA over 9 games (4 starts) and 26.2 innings.
So far in 2021 though King has been good though, which is nice. He is pitching to a 4.08 ERA over 11 games (4 starts) over 35.1 innings with an ERA+ of 103. While he was considered an interesting spot-start candidate going into the season, so far the experiment hasn’t been paying out great (6.32 ERA in games started) while his coming out of the bullpen in the beginning of the season (2.29 ERA) was much more successful.
What I’d Do and What the Yankees Will Do:
Michael King exceeded his rookie eligibility in 2020 and will be under control by the Yankees through 2025, including arbitration that begins for the 2023 season. Because of this the Yankees have him long-term and as a cheap option for a long-relief/spot-start type pitcher. And, with his solid prospect pedigree he should be able to stick around the MLB for the near future.
Unfortunately for Michael King, he finds himself in a very similar career arc to a large plethora of pitchers. He has the stuff to pitch in the MLB for sure, but he is desired now for his cheap price and given some room to still grow. However, in 4/5 years as he approaches his final year of arbitration/free agency if he is the same type player he’ll likely be a late-February signee for a team looking for help late.
Michael King will not be traded by the Yankees and they have no reason to trade him. He makes too much sense to keep around logistically given his contract (length and cost), his position as a decent spot-starter with the team, and his ability to grow more after (honestly) a very short current stint in the MLB. You’d prefer the Yankees would’ve had the starting pitching depth not to need King for this team, but here we are and now we get to learn what his future should hold. My bet is on long-relief, but it’s not a bad role to have.