What to Do About the Pitching for 2023
By Cary Greene
November 3, 2022
The 2023 Projected Rotation:
$38 to $43 million is how much is likely left in the pot after Cashman very hopefully signs Aaron Judge, who is obviously a free-agent and will soon be fielding offers from numerous suitors - many of whom have a ton of payroll space. No doubt, the Yankees have many other fish to fry as well. Anthony Rizzo is likely to opt-out of his contract and Andrew Benintendi and Jameson Taillon are both now free agents. Harrison Bader, Luis Severino, and Frankie Montas are in the final year of their contracts as well.
This offseason, if Brian Cashman doesn’t truly focus on building a long term plan with the Yankees starting rotation, the future will be sadly sacrificed. Also, as constructed, the Yankees Starting Rotation just isn’t quite good enough to win a World Series and the 2022 playoffs proved this to be true.
The Yankees need to gain ground here and Cashman really doesn’t have a ton of options this offseason. In fact, with reliable lefty Jordan Montgomery now traded away and the aforementioned Jameson Taillon now a free agent, two-thirds of the Yankees rotation is now gone. The Yankees pitching is no longer a team strength. The Yankees aren’t deep either, like they were last season.
In addition, the Yankees rotation isn’t balanced enough, Nestor Cortes is the team’s only left-handed starting pitcher. Cashman needs to do something about the rotation. He’s failed for a long time now at accomplishing this. He hasn’t done what’s necessary for the Yankees to win a championship.
Here is the projected 2023 Opening Day Starting Rotation:
Luis Severino ($15m Club Option expected to be picked up)
There also isn’t much internal help on the horizon. Will Warren, Clayton Beeter, Luis Gil, Yoendrys Gomez, and Randy Vasquez are all that’s left in an organization that is very barren in terms of pitching depth. Deivi Garcia, who still occupies a slot on the Yankees 40-man roster, was last spotted on a Triple-A mound on May 26th when he was knocked-out in the second-inning, which left him with a 10.38 ERA at the time. He failed to make it out of the fourth-inning in any of his final four starts in Triple-A and he became the Invisible Man from there, as the Yankees sent him back to their minor-league complex to basically rediscover himself.
I’ve “listed” Clarke Schmidt as a starter who might help but it appears the Yankees have blundered with him also, attempting to convert him into a high-leverage reliever. Schmidt should have been left alone to develop his acumen as a starter, but a rash of devastating injuries forced Brian Cashman to meddle in his development and as a result, Schmidt lost valuable development traction as a starter.
Many had hoped that Luis Medina, J.P. Sears, Ken Waldichuk, Hayden Wesneski, or T.J. Sikkema might have been able to impact the Yankees, but all were traded away by Cashman at this year’s trade deadline.
When coupled with the effect of also trading Monty away, Cashman has effectively flushed the Yankees ability to turn to internal options for this season right down the drain!
Therefore, Cashman will absolutely need to make a major impact to the rotation by focusing on free agents. If he does nothing, the Yankees will have a full-scale code-red emergency in the starting rotation next offseason and for this year, they’ll be very far off from the fairly solid position they were in only a season ago. Cashman has destroyed the Yankees minor league pitching depth and he’s even managed to leave the Yankees with a badly depleted rotation heading into this offseason.
The Yankees should be looking for a pitcher capable of slotting in behind Gerrit Cole, no offense to Nestor Cortes Jr. and it would be ideal if the starter acquired was left-handed and fairly durable. If Cashman can’t manage to get this done, Hal Steinbrenner should seriously consider doing the opposite of what Steve Cohen is doing this offseason. Cohen is apparently trying to entice Aaron Judge to sign with the Mets as he’s moving the right field fence in at Citi Field.
Steinbrenner really ought to move the right field fence back if plans to let Cashman continue to operate as the GM of the Yankees. That said, let’s turn our attention to available 2023 free agent pitchers and ponder if there are any fits in what is a pretty nice crop to pick from.
Jacob DeGrom, Justin Verlander, Carlos Rodon, Chris Bassitt, Koudi Senga, Clayton Kershaw, Tyler Anderson, Martin Perez and Nathan Evoldi are the best available starters.
Other options include Carlos Carrasco ($14 million club option), Mike Clevinger, Johnny Cueto, Zach Davies, Zach Eflin, Shintaro Fujinami, Kyle Gibson, Zack Greinke, Andrew Heaney, Corey Kluber, Jordan Lyles ($11 million club option), Sean Manaea, José Quintana, Ross Stripling, Noah Syndergaard, Jameson Taillon, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, Taijuan Walker ($6 million player option).
There is little doubt that a few of these pitchers could be combined with the three legitimate starters that the Yankees have (Cole, Cortes and Severino) and, providing that Cashman takes care of business and builds a strong positional roster, the Yankees could conceivably continue to contend for a championship.
I’ll just come out and say it and I know Cashman has a very busy offseason ahead of him, but it makes sense to trade Frankie Montas and Domingo German. Neither makes sense as a starting pitcher to be counted on in the Bronx.
Personally, I think Cashman should focus on signing Carlos Rodon and Tyler Anderson or Martin Perez. All three are lefties and all three would likely be very successful pitching at Yankee Stadium.
Rodon proved to be healthy this season and at only 29-years of age and with a 33.4% K-Rate that was in the top five-percent of the league last year coupled with an elite 2.64 xERA that was in the top eight-percent of the league, there’s strong evidence that Rodon is going to be quite a horse in whichever team’s rotation he lands in this coming season.
It's high-time that Brian Cashman made a good pitching decision and Rodon is the clear best fit, but signing Rodon alone wouldn’t be good enough. The Yankees need to add another reliable lefty to the rotation, which really ought to be two-thirds left-handed. It would be nice if the Yankees could force opponents to avoid playing left-handed players when they visit Yankee Stadium. Doing this requires Cashman to sign one more piece, in addition to Rodon.
With Frankie Montas and Domingo German both traded for minor league pitching depth, which would help to restock the barren and depleted farm system, Tyler Anderson is the final piece to what could become a championship rotation.
What makes Anderson so attractive and such an obvious pitcher the Yankees should target is that opposing batters struggle to hit balls hard against him. His Exit-Velocity-Against is 85 mph, which puts him in the top two-percent of the league. His Hard-Hit Percentage is also in the top two-percent of the league at 28.5%, which further supports the case for signing him. The soon-to-be 33 year-old Anderson does nothing but limit hard contact and limit walks. He’s the opposite of Rodon, he’s not a big strikeout pitcher. He’s the opposite of Cole in that he doesn’t allow home runs - and I’d point to his .7 HR/9 stat to close the case for Anderson in resounding fashion.
The cost of adding Rodon, per MLB's Joel Rueter is going to be in the neighborhood of 3-years and $75m, with an AAV of $25m. Adding Anderson will run 2-years and a very reasonable $22-million, with an AAV of only $11m.
I’m lobbying that Cashman should add $36-million to put a rotation in place that is capable of winning a World Series. What are the chances that Cashman is shrewd enough to do this? Equally important, is doing this feasible?
I wrote a piece that ran recently here on SSTN entitled, The Moves the Yankees Will Make and in this piece, I determined that after signing Judge - which we all hope can be accomplished, that Cashman will have between $38m and $43m left before the Yankees exceed the Luxury Tax threshold.
I also projected that signing Benintendi and Rizzo would also add $20m per player. There is a good chance that Hal Steinbrenner might actually approve the Active Payroll to land over Tier One ($233m this coming season) and potentially that means Cashman might be authorized to spend up to about $250-million or slightly more. If he were to spend any more than that, the Yankees would be taxed at 32 percent again (as they were this past season). But, if he were to stay right around $250-million, the Yankees would only be taxed at 20 percent.
That sounds reasonable to me. I think Hal Steinbrenner might be okay with landing towards the top end of Tier One but not exceeding it. That this would happen is realistic. I highly doubt Steinbrenner, fresh off yet another postseason failure, is going to cry poverty and mandate that Cashman stay under the threshold entirely.
The all-important offseason budget, assuming Judge is successfully signed, increases from between $38m to $43m up to a new number of between $53m to $58m. If Cashman spends $36m of that on Rodon and Anderson, to revamp and reinvigorate the rotation, he’d still have $17m to $22m left over. It might be enough to bring back Rizzo, but signing Benintendi is likely off the table. Signing Benintendi increases the Yankees Active Payroll to to the point where it lands in the Second-Tier of the Threshold. I think the Yankees SHOULD resign Benintendi and I don’t think being in the Second Tier is a big deal if Steinbrenner wants a championship, but I doubt he’d do that.
We shall find out soon enough. Steinbrenner has yet to do his season ending "State of the Yankees" address to the media. Hopefully, we’ll get some kind of idea what Steinbrenner’s position is on the 2023 budget. If he’s willing to rinse and repeat, that means the budget goes up even more and bringing back Benintendi and also adding to the bullpen would be easily possible.
I’ll close with the Starting Rotation I’d like to see in place to begin the season. Two power righties, a power lefty and two crafty lefties. This rotation likely goes very far. Possibly all the way to the promised land:
Clarke Schmidt (begins season in Triple-A to stay stretched out)