Monday, February 12, 2018

What About The Other Top Free Agent Starters?

Naturally, after Yu Darvish was signed by the Chicago Cubs, Yankees fans started looking at some of the other top free agent starters. Well, let me just say.... stop.

If the Yankees bring in any starter for this season it should be a top of the rotation type. That means guys like Andrew Cashner or Tyler Chatwood should not even be considered. Mind you, those two would make fine additions to a team looking for a solid starter for the middle of their rotation, but the Yankees have plenty of guys for that. Heck, with Sonny Gray as their #3 starter, the Yankees may very well have the best "middle of the rotation" in baseball.

That may make some fans think of the other "top" free agent starters that are still available. That being Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn, and Alex Cobb.

Let's start with Arrieta. On the surface he may seem like a guy you'd like to see added to the rotation. Even if you throw out his 2015 Cy Young season by considering it an outlier, he still posted a 3.30 ERA, including an ERA+ of 129, in 61 starts from 2016 to 2017. But when it comes to guys like Jake, who will very likely sign with a team for five years, you have to consider how a contract would end. And seeing as how his home run rate has gone up in each of the past four seasons (0.3 HR/9 to 0.4 to 0.7 to 1.2), he gave up more hits per nine innings than he has since 2012, and his WHIP has gone up in each of the past three years, I think this should be a definite "pass".

Then comes Lance Lynn. After a little less than a thousand innings thrown in MLB, Lance's ERA has never been above 3.97. And for those worried about him having had Tommy John surgery a couple of years ago, he bounced back very well last season and started 33 games. But did you know that his strikeout rate was lower than it's ever been in his career, while his walk and home run rates were never higher? Sure, that could be a hangover from missing all of 2016, but it seems like an unnecessary gamble for a team that already has a pretty good starting rotation.

Finally there's Alex Cobb. Like Lynn, Cobb had Tommy John surgery as well, but he had it a year earlier in 2015. After missing the vast majority of the 2016 season while recovering Alex didn't bounce back quite so well in his five starts at the end of the year (8.59 ERA, along with giving up 15 earned runs over his last 4.1 innings). Then came last season when his ERA dropped down to a very nice 3.66. But what scares me away from Alex is that he's no longer able to use his best pitch... the split-finger fastball. He improved his curveball to give him a good complimentary pitch to his four-seamer, but am I willing to gamble on even a four year deal here? Not if I'm Brian Cashman and already have a full rotation and some nice prospects knocking on the door of MLB.

And let's talk about those younger guys.

Jordan Montgomery would likely be the odd-man out of the rotation, and I don't like that. Jordan may not be a future ace, but I wouldn't want to hold back a 24 year-old starter that had an ERA of just 3.88 last season, along with a very respectable strikeout rate of 8.3 per 9 innings. If we were talking about a 34 year-old then this would be a totally different conversation, but in the case of Monty we're talking about a guy that could very well get better. And better than 2017 Montgomery is as good as you can hope to get out of those three guys I talked about earlier.

Then you have Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield. Now, I'm not a big Adams fan, as I think he is destined for the bullpen, but you have to give the guy a shot as starter. And while Sheffield may begin the season in AA, he could very well get some starts in the Majors by the end of the season. By the way, every "expert" I've read ranks Sheffield ahead of Adams.

You can't forget that signing one of those three top free agent starters could lead to not seeing younger guys like Albert Abreu, another youngster that many people are high on. Or Dillon Tate, who... like Chance Adams... may be destined for the bullpen, but has earned a chance to be a MLB starter.

At this point I hope that Cashman sticks with what he has. I hope he gives things a couple of months to see how his current rotation pans out while seeing how his top prospects start the 2018 season. If an injury occurs, and neither Adams or Sheffield can be counted on to help, then Brian can use the Yankees nice crop of prospects to pull of a trade for a top of the rotation starter by the trade deadline, like they did for Sonny Gray last year.

Look... it's tough. Since Giancarlo Stanton was traded for this offseason has been a total bore. Well, it's been a "bore" for all of Major League Baseball, but for Yankees fans it's been nearly unbearable. Thankfully the "keep in mind we did trade for Stanton" memes help. But we must stick together and stay the course.

Flights for Tampa are Now Boarding...

It’s beginning to look a lot like Spring…

It’s the Monday morning of the week that pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in Tampa, Florida. Woohoo! I am so ready for Baseball! Tomorrow, Steinbrenner Field will be buzzing with activity as the voluntary players in camp will be met by the rest of the group. New Manager Aaron Boone has been at Training Camp since Friday. He and his new staff will be among the first to greet the new arrivals.

Photo Credit: via USA TODAY Network (Kevin R Wexler)
Position players report must report by Sunday, February 18th although a number of players are already in town. Others, such as Giancarlo Stanton, should soon be en route. 

Stanton caused a bit of a stir yesterday when he posted an Instagram pic featuring the newest Yankee slugger with mercurial New York Giants star wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. Stanton labeled the pic “Dem City boys”. Stanton is going to find out that he’s not in Miami anymore and his every move will draw attention and will be open for lots and lots of criticism. Stanton has said that he’s looking forward to the ‘big city, bright lights’.  If I have a fear about Stanton in New York City, it’s that he’ll be distracted by the ‘big city, bright lights’. Stanton and Aaron Judge may be similarly sized sluggers but their personas are night and day. Stanton, based on what I’ve seen, enjoys the nightlife. Nevertheless, I am confident that Stanton will arrive in Tampa very focused and determined. This is his first opportunity to play for a winner and he’ll do so pulling on the pinstripes of the most storied franchise in baseball history. I am not trying to criticize him but I do hope that he avoids unnecessary criticism and controversy when the team heads north to the Bronx. 

Now that Yu Darvish is officially off the board, thanks to the Chicago Cubs, it ends any further speculation that the Yankees are trying to find a way to clear salary space for the talented right-hander. I did like the thought of Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka pitching together, but I am glad the Yankees weren't the team handing him the six-year, $126 million contract.  However, it is unlikely the Yankees search for a starting pitcher is over. Many of you feel that the Yankees would be fine with Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield providing the primary rotation support. As much as I would like for both guys to succeed, Sheffield has yet to pitch at Triple A and many speculate that Adams might be better suited for the bullpen. I really do not want to rely upon Luis Cessa or potentially pull Chad Green from the pen for the inevitable replacement starts in the rotation. 

I would not want to see the Yankees pay ("overpay" based on the dollars Agent Scott Boras is seeking) for free agent Jake Arrieta. I feel that Arrieta’s numbers are trending in the wrong direction and the last time he competed in the AL East, he failed miserably while a member of the Baltimore Orioles. However, I do feel that either Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb would represent upgrades. The question is cost and if the Yankees would still be forced to move salary to make it happen (which is most likely the case). Somehow, it feels like this road to pitching will eventually lead us back to the Detroit Tigers and Michael Fulmer. If, by July, the Tigers are in the midst of another lost season (likely), they may be more motivated to move Fulmer for a talented collection of high-end prospects. 

Photo Credit: Icon Sportswire (Scott W Grau)
Personally, I am very excited about the potential of Gleyber Torres as the Yankees starting second baseman, but David Cone took to Twitter this weekend to remind people not to sleep on Tyler Wade. I have been convinced that we’ll see a much better Wade this year and it will not surprise me if Wade is the Opening Day second baseman. Inevitably, I feel that Torres will be the starter but Wade will have a few weeks to show that he belongs in the Major Leagues (for good). The activity and competition at second base this year is very exciting.

As for third, it appears Miguel Andujar will be given first crack at the position. However, I remain of the opinion that we’ll see the signing of a veteran third baseman. I continue to believe Mike Moustakas will not accept a one-year pillow contract (no Moose Tacos in the Bronx), regardless of how sluggish free agency has been this year, so we’re more likely to see Eduardo Nunez (not excited about his defensive skills...or lack thereof) or Neil Walker to compete at third with Andujar.  I'd really be sick if the Yankees gave a minor league contract with training camp invite to a guy like Trevor Plouffe.  

Back to Chad Green, while the Yankees have asked him to come to camp as a starter, there’s no doubt he’ll be back in the bullpen.  He’s too valuable there. The MLB Network featured its Top Ten Relievers this weekend and Green was the highest rated Yankees reliever at #4. The only relievers ahead of Green were Kenley Jansen of the Los Angeles Dodgers; Andrew Miller of the Cleveland Indians; and Craig Kimbrel of the Boston Red Sox. Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman was #8. I see Green moving toward the back end of the bullpen in the next couple of years. As much as I enjoy David Robertson, he’ll be a free agent at the end of the year.  Given the sizable contracts that quality relievers continue to attract, it’s very possible that the Yankees will let D-Rob walk (if he isn’t traded sooner to add additional room for salary space under the $197 million threshold). I see Green as one of the guys capable of stepping into the late innings with Tommy Kahnle and Dellin Betances to form the bridge to Chapman.  Ben Heller is my pick for bullpen breakout this year and the flame-throwing Domingo Acevedo is on his way so even if D-Rob walks or is traded, the Yankees bullpen should continue to be a strength.

Photo Credit: MLB Network
Lastly, the MLB Network has been running a documentary the last couple of weeks about the late, legendary Tony Gwynn entitled “Mr Padre”. Gwynn was such an incredible personality and force of the game. It is nice to be reminded of his smile and his love and passion for Baseball.  He may be gone but he has certainly not been forgotten. If you haven’t seen the documentary, you should check it out. Thanks for the memories, Tony.

Photo Credit: (John W McDonough)

Go Yankees!