So far this offseason, the Yankees have focused on bolstering their batting order through trades for outfielder Aaron Hicks and infielder Starlin Castro. But now, with the team’s position-player alignment pretty much set (barring a trade of Brett Gardner) it is time to talk about pitching.
If the season started tomorrow, the Yankees’ starting rotation would look something like this:
Now that’s not so bad. All seven of those guys have had some degree of success one time or another and could contribute in 2016. As a bonus, six of the seven are younger than 30 years old. But, like last year, the rotation carries a number of question marks. Will Pineda be healthy? Will we see the version of Sabathia that dominated September or the one that struggled through April, May, June and July (and that’s not even touching on the fact that he’ll be pitching for the first time since checking into rehab last October)? Can Nova bounce back from a bad season? Is Mitchell truly an MLB-caliber starter?
Given the uncertainty, it’s likely the Yankees will add to their rotation before Opening Day. And given their apparent commitment to youth and austerity, we can assume they’ll look for a young, cost-controlled option. But young starters certainly don’t grow on trees, and any team that has a 25-year-old, mid-rotation pitcher won’t likely part with him easily.
With Shelby Miller off the board and Jose Fernandez’s price prohibitively high, let’s look at some young pitchers Brian Cashman might think about placing calls on.
Category I: The Deep Rebuilding Team
Though most rebuilding teams want to hold on to their mid-20s players, occasionally a team embarks on a teardown so thorough it will part with even its young major leaguers. Here, we’re looking for pitchers young enough to help the Yankees in the near future but old enough that their current teams are willing to cash in for prospects.
- Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves
The Braves have already traded the 25-year-old Miller and 26-year-old Andrelton Simmons, so they would probably be willing to part with the 24-year-old Teheran for the right price. This would be somewhat of a buy-low move, as the righty is coming off an unimpressive season on the heels of two good ones. Teheran would cost the Yankees at least one of their top prospects (Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, Jorge Mateo), but unlike Fernandez wouldn’t require a package built around Severino.
- Taylor Jungmann, Milwaukee Brewers
Jungmann had a nice rookie year in 2015 (3.77 ERA, 3.92 FIP in 119.1 innings), but he’s already 25 years old, and the Brewers aren’t anywhere close to contention. There’s no specific indication that the 2011 first-round pick is available, but he’s the type of low-ceiling guy a rebuilding team might consider moving under the right circumstances.
- Anthony Desclafani/Rasiel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds
This could be a stretch, but the Reds have a ton of young arms, and maybe they’d be willing to part with one of the older, more developed ones. Desclafani and Iglesias are both almost 26 with solid rookie seasons under their belts. Would Cincinnati give up guys who don’t hit arbitration for a few more years? Who knows, but it’s probably worth a call.
Category II: The Low-floor/high-ceiling guys
The Yankees could pursue a young starting pitcher whose previous teams are ready to move on following early-career injury or ineffectiveness.
- Henderson Alvarez, free agent
The Marlins non-tendered Alvarez only a year after he posted a 2.65 ERA and 3.58 FIP over 187 innings, which indicates an enormous lack of confidence in his ability to come back strong from shoulder surgery. Still, the 25-year-old has shown he can pitch at an elite level and will offer high-risk upside to whoever signs him.
- Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays are supposedly discussing trades involving the 26-year-old Moore, who has thrown only 73 innings in the past two years. Once upon a time, Moore was one of the top three prospects in baseball along with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, and the Yankees (along with everyone else) will be tempted to try to recapture that potential.
- Tyler Skaggs, Los Angeles Angels
Skaggs hasn’t lived up to his top-prospect hype, with a career 4.72 ERA in 181 innings, but his 3.55 FIP in 2015 suggests a breakout could lie ahead. The Angels have more starting pitchers (Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney, Hector Santiago, Matt Shoemaker, Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson) than they know what to do with, so perhaps they’d consider dealing the 24-year-old Skaggs.
Category III: May I interest you in Brett Gardner?
The Yankees’ willingness to trade Gardner opens up the possibility of working with a contending team that simply needs an outfielder (plus some prospects) more than a starting pitcher.
- Taijuan Walker/James Paxton, Seattle Mariners
The Mariners have already reportedly turned down a deal centered around Gardner and the 23-year-old Walker but are open to giving up 27-year-old James Paxton. Given Seattle’s need for outfielders, this one makes enough sense for the teams to eventually find some middle ground.
- Danny Salazar/Trevor Bauer/Cody Anderson, Cleveland Indians
The Indians are reportedly listening to offers on all their starting pitchers, and though Carlos Carrasco’s price tag is likely greater than the Yankees are willing to pay, Cashman could make a move for Salazar, 25, Bauer, 24 or Anderson, 25. One of these deals could require forking over some good prospects in addition to Gardner, but the 32-year-old left fielder could be an appealing target for an offense-starved Cleveland team.
- Zack Wheeler, New York Mets
The Mets have an excess of young starting pitching, and the 25-year-old Wheeler, coming off Tommy John surgery, could be the odd man out. The question is, does Sandy Alderson need an outfielder to replace Yoenis Cespedes, or are they content to start the season with a Michael Conforto/Juan Lagares/Curtis Granderson alignment.
Lead photo courtesy of Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports