Wednesday, December 5, 2018

How Do The Yankees Move On From Patrick Corbin?

How could you turn your back on the Yankees and your family?

Going into the offseason I thought Patrick Corbin being a Yankee was a foregone conclusion. Even with all the chatter of other teams getting involved, my belief never wavered. With that said you might think the news of Corbin signing with the Nationals yesterday would have devastated me, but that's not true.

Sure, it stinks that Corbin (understandably) took more money to go somewhere else. A lefty with good strikeout numbers, who could reasonably be leaned on to start 30+ games, would have been a perfect fit with the Yankees.

Thankfully, not only is there a lot of offseason left, Patrick was not the only good to great starter that's available via free agency or trade. Hell, he wasn't even the best pitcher available.

Did Brian Cashman look at these other options and think "yeah, that would be a good plan b"? Thus saving money that would otherwise go to Corbin in order to go all-in on Harper and/or Machado? I like to think so. Of course, the Phillies are in the same boat, so my prediction is only one of those two will be playing for the Yankees next season. But that's been my prediction this whole time, anyway. This way the Yankees will save more money, which is something Hal has wanted to do for years.

But before I go over those pitchers, I want to reiterate something...

If you can't see the guy starting a game in the postseason, then he's not the pitcher we're looking for. That doesn't mean we need a game one or game two starter (we already have Severino and Paxton), or even a game three starter (Tanaka has been stellar in the postseason), but it's very possible we need this other pitcher to give us a start in a seven-game series.

Not that Cashman shouldn't aim higher, but I wanted to give you an idea of what the needs and wants of the Yankees are.

So let's start with those starters in free agency that may pique your interest...

Dallas Keuchel (LHP)
Dallas is a sinkerball pitcher, but last year he just wasn't getting as many swings and misses as before. The spin rate and velocity of the pitch have been pretty similar to years past, but he did throw it more in 2018 than 2017 (note: Keuchel's sinker was thrown in the strike zone more often than not in 2016, which likely led a bad season). I know some people are down on Keuchel, but I'm a little intrigued.

Drew Pomeranz (LHP) 
Drew might come cheap due to a poor 2018 season, which I believe is attributed to the flexor strain he suffered at the beginning of the season along with the left biceps tendinitis in June. Drew lacks a strong third pitch, as he mainly relies on his fastball and curveball, but he does have a cut fastball that could make him a good bet.

Lance Lynn (RHP)
His strikeout rate improved last year, but unfortunately, his walk rate took a step back. That could be attributed to him using his fastball more and his sinker less. I should note that according to spin rates and whiff percentage, both pitches are still effective. I'm not 100% sold that he could get back to the pitcher he was in St. Louis, but it wouldn't be a bad bet.

Nathan Eovaldi (RHP) 
Eovaldi is familiar with New York, having pitched there in 2015 and 2016. That doesn't make him a no-brainer here, but it is something to take into account. Now, it's hard to evaluate Nathan since he's a different pitcher than he was before missing the 2017 season after his second Tommy John surgery. Eovaldi used a cut fastball quite a bit in 2018, after having first learned the pitch while with the Yankees, which has allowed his four-seamer to be more effective than ever. I don't know if it's Nathan's previous stint with the Yankees that gives me pause, but I can't say I'd be comfortable penciling Eovaldi in as a starter for 2019.

J.A. Happ (LHP) 
Last season he started using his fastball much more and using his sinker much less. However, when Happ did throw his sinker last year it was more effective than in year's past. So while the spin rate on his fastball and sinker has gone down it looks like he's done the smart thing and used them differently to remain an overall effective pitcher. He's clearly not as good as Corbin would have been, but as the #4 starter behind Severino, Paxton, and Tanaka I would feel good.

Free agency is not the only place a pitcher could come from, as some very good names have already been talked about in trades this offseason, and the three biggest happen to currently pitch for the same team.

Although the Cleveland Indians won 91 games last season, and could very well repeat as AL Central champions next season, they've made it clear they are willing to trade away one of their top starters. I'm guessing that they would trade one of them to build up a poor farm system while adding top prospect Tristan McKenzie and/or one of those free agent starters to their rotation. The Indians would surely love to have a guy like Estevan Florial as they have nothing good coming up to fill in center field, a spot they got little to no production out of last season.

You might think the Indians would demand Miguel Andujar in a package, but I could see them not pushing that. Although some scouts see him being moved to right field eventually, the Indians do have a good third base prospect in Nolan Jones.

However, I could see Cleveland being interested in Tyler Wade for second base, especially if they can get the Yankees or another team to take on Jason Kipnis.

Therefore, I believe the Yankees would have to offer a package consisting of Estevan Florial, Tyler Wade, and Jonathan Loaisiga (of course we'd have to give up a pitching prospect), plus other smaller pieces to get a deal done.

Take note that due to losing Florial, I think it's imperative that Brian Cashman extends or re-signs Aaron Hicks to continue in center field.

To be honest, I don't see the Yankees pulling off another big trade this offseason. The package of Florial, Wade, and Loaisiga is very good, but I can't help but think another team will swoop in and offer Cleveland more, or at least a package that fills their needs or wants better. So although my heart is with the trade, I think we'll see Cashman signing J.A. Happ, and Yankees Universe will bitch and moan that he paid too much.

The Yankees Plan B for Patrick Corbin May Include an Indians Starter and Jason Kipnis

The New York Yankees missed out on the top free agent starting pitcher this winter in Patrick Corbin after the left-hander agreed to a six-year deal worth $140 million with the Washington Nationals, but that does not mean that the Yankees will be without another frontline starter this winter. Instead of acquiring another arm off the free agent market the New York Yankees may be forced back into the trade market, and back to the Cleveland Indians. The New York Yankees have already tried to acquire one of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco or Trevor Bauer this winter, but were unwilling to meet the high asking price for any of their starters, but with recent news being released that may have all changed.

The Cleveland Indians are seemingly in a bit of a rebuilt, much like the Seattle Mariners this winter, and are looking to unload some salary in these trades. According to MLB Trade Rumors and Buster Olney the Indians may ask a potential trade partner to take on Jason Kipnis and the remaining money on his deal ($14,666,667 in 2019 and a $16.5 million team option for 2020 including a $2.5 million buyout) in order to trade for one of the three aforementioned starters. Uh, yes please?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not a fan of Kipnis and I do not think he solves a lot of the Yankees problems, but he, nor his contract, are enough of an albatross to make hiding him on the roster for the 2019 season out of the realms of possibilities. Kipnis bats left-handed, something the Yankees need with the loss of Didi Gregorius, and he plays second base, which allows the Yankees to move Gleyber Torres to shortstop until Didi returns from his Tommy John surgery. Kipnis won’t hit for average (he hit .230 in 2018 and is a career .263 hitter), but he could hit for power in the Bronx (he hit 18 home runs in 2018 with Cleveland) and could benefit from the short porch in right field. Kipnis takes his walks, his OBP is almost 100 points higher than his batting average, and his defense is still considered, at the very least, average at second base. Kipnis has also dabbled in center field (14 appearances in 2018) which adds a bit of versatility and flexibility to his resume for the Yankees.

You would think that adding the contract of Kipnis would bring the asking price from the Cleveland Indians down, which may allow the Yankees to keep the “untouchable” Estevan Florial while still acquiring the ace that they so desperately need and want. Jonathan Loasiga/Albert Abreu, plus, plus, for Kluber/Carrasco/Bauer and Kipnis and his salary is definitely a possibility, assuming the accuracy of the report from Buster Olney.

Make it happen, Cashman.