Wednesday, December 21, 2016

For My Next Trick, Upgrading the Yankees Rotation


The New York Yankees starting rotation is in trouble if the team decides they want to compete in 2017. This is obviously my opinion but I think I’m not alone in that way of thinking heading into the season, especially on paper. A rotation of Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Chad Green, CC Sabathia and Luis Cessa (speculation of course) doesn’t really scare many teams in a series anymore so for my next trick I want to try and address the Yankees starting rotation and see what I can do to fix it both fiscally and realistically. We all know someone in the Yankees organization reads my material, or I’m a Messiah and I’m far too humble to say that without my tongue placed far inside my cheek, so let’s give them some reading material for this afternoon. Shall we?

The Yankees are already said to be interested in acquiring a former farm hand that they allowed to hit free agency in Jose Quintana. Quintana looks great but I don’t think he is a realistic option for the Yankees. Why? Well Quintana comes with four years of team control and the Chicago White Sox are not in the business, especially lately, of “losing” trades. For that reason you can kiss probably two or three of the Yankees top 10 prospects goodbye plus more. Does Brian Cashman have the gonads to pull off a trade like that? Is the past is any indicator of the future I’d say probably not. Don’t get me wrong, give up Jorge Mateo and Miguel Andujar in a package and get the deal done. That’s what I would do if I were the GM but I just can’t see Cashman pulling the trigger, sorry but I can’t.

The Kansas City Royals are in a tough spot. They have basically a one-year window before some of their young studs begin hitting free agency but at the same time the team also needs to cut payroll to improve the team in order to compete. It’s a Catch 22. The Royals do have a couple of pitchers that might make sense for the Yankees and none more so, and more realistic, then Danny Duffy. Duffy is in the final year of his arbitration and will hit free agency next season at 28-years old. Duffy pitched to a 12-3 record with a 3.51 ERA in 2016 and while he only managed 179.2 innings he did strike out 188 batters next to just 42 walks all season long. He doesn’t fit into the long term goals of the Yankees but he would come at a reasonable price in terms of both prospects and salary while giving the team the option to compete in 2017. My only concern is Duffy’s ability to keep the ball down and out of the right field bleachers inside of Yankee Stadium. That could get ugly, and fast.

The Yankees could also look a short-term reunion with a familiar face who was traded to a different place this past season in Ivan Nova. Nova is not ideal in any sense of the word but he has shown flashes of brilliance and would cost the Yankees nothing but money in terms of acquiring him. Nova pitched much better for the Pirates than he did for the Yankees after being traded before the deadline last season and has seemingly bounced back from adversity to pitch well before which may suggest a trend. Remember when Nova was demoted to the bullpen only to come back to the rotation and put up a 16-win season for the Bombers? Maybe he’s bored? I don’t know but if someone else finds out and keeps him occupied he could be a legitimate buy-low candidate, if there is such a thing in this market.

The final suggestion for the Yankees starting rotation is a suggestion that I made right around this time last year, Doug Fister. Now Fister would have made me look like a fool after posting a career worst 4.64 ERA in 2016 at age 32 but that doesn’t mean I’m ready to give up on the now 33-year old. Fister is a ground ball pitcher and him coming to New York would remind me a lot of Brandon McCarthy and others who came to the Bronx as ground ball pitchers and seemingly figured it all out or put it all together under pitching coach Larry Rothschild. While Fister will not win the Yankees a World Series in 2017 he allows the Yankees to continue to straddle the line between competing and rebuilding as he likely comes on a one-year deal and he also keeps innings off the arms of the Yankees bullpen.

The Yankees, unless they go big for a Quintana or an equivalent, will not substantially upgrade their starting rotation this winter. I believe they need to just hold on and stay afloat until James Kaprielian and others are ready to contribute and Fister, Nova and/or Duffy can do that. Again, these arms will not bring the Yankees a division title by themselves let alone a World Series championship but I believe them to be the best and most realistic options for the New York Yankees as we stand today. Tomorrow, that may change. I guess you’ll just have to stay tuned to that to find out.


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