The Yankees need help with their starting rotation. This is not exactly breaking news and on Sunday, GM Brian Cashman discussed the status of trade talks during an interview on WFAN.
“We certainly have been engaged for a long time, but we still are where we are because we just have not found the match that we’re comfortable with. Not that we don’t like players that we want to import to take us to another level, but so far we haven’t matched up because the demands just exceed what our comfort level is, and we’re still trying to find the right circumstance.”
There are several obstacles to trade talks at the moment. Cashman mentioned in the interview that there is a bit of a penalty when you have a deep farm system because, in negotiations, teams undervalue players. If the Yankees offer a player that is in their top ten, teams do not always recognize that the player would be in someone else’s top three.
The pitching market is also very different from previous years. There is no Chris Sale on the market. There is not a clear ace on a last place team trying to sell. The teams that offer potential aces are hesitant to sell, and the teams that are prepared to sell only offer back-end options.
That is why I have divided the available pitchers into tiers. Tier one is the high caliber pitching on teams reluctant to sell. Tier two is the lower caliber pitching on teams that are more eager to sell. I will examine the first tier today, and the second tier tomorrow.
TIER ONE: HIGH CALIBER / NOT NECESSARILY AVAILABLE
Jacob DeGrom (RHP, 30 years old)
If you have not heard the DeGrom trade rumors over the last several months, you have probably refrained from watching the YES Network. He is having the best season of any pitcher on this list. He owns a 1.68 ERA through 123.1 innings pitched, and he has already accumulated 6 WAR. A deal is unlikely given that the Yankees would have to deal with the Mets. If he is made available though, one has to imagine that the Yankees will make a competitive offer.
Madison Bumgarner (LHP, 29 years old)
There were a lot of rumors in June about Bumgarner, and they seem to have slowed down a bit. In theory, this is a fit for both clubs. It does not appear that the Giants will make the playoffs, and Bumgarner will be a free agent after the 2019 season. If the Giants move him, they’ll likely want high ceiling outfielders and relievers.
The Yankees meanwhile have plenty of outfielders and relievers to spare. Clint Frazier, Estevan Florial, Jonathan Holder, and Albert Abreu are all possible names that the Yankees could float. Baumgarner has pitched well since coming back from the DL with a broken hand, and his postseason resume (7-3, 2.11 ERA) speaks for itself.
Carlos Martinez (RHP, 26 years old)
Martinez is the most likely to be available out of all the pitchers in this tier. He is also arguably the most reliable. He is under contract for the next five years, and during the last three years, he has averaged a 3.23 ERA and 193 innings pitched per season.
He also carries the least upside of the pitchers in this tier. His best season may have been in 2016 when he had a 3.04 ERA in 195.1 innings pitched. This year, he owns a 3.39 ERA in 95.2 innings pitched. His strikeout rate is fairly in line with his career numbers, but he is walking more batters (4.5 BB/9) and has struggled a bit more with his control and command this year. Derek Albin wrote a piece about Martinez last week.
Blake Snell (LHP, 25 years old)
I did not include Chris Archer on this list, because he does not exactly fit into either tier. The Rays will be reluctant to sell a controllable pitcher to a division rival, and Archer is not exactly elite at the moment. However, Blake Snell is a pitcher on the Rays who fits the definition of high caliber. He is having an excellent season, and if he is made available, the Yankees should make a strong offer.
This season, Snell has accumulated 4.2 WAR and a 2.27 ERA in 119 innings pitched. He has not gone above 130 innings pitched in his young career though, so he will have to be monitored very carefully. He strikes out batters and generates plenty of swings and misses. He may be the least reliable of this tier given his limited track record and lack of accumulated innings, but he undeniably possesses upside. He could be a fixture in the rotation for years to come.
WHICH PITCHER SHOULD THE YANKEES TARGET?
The Yankees should target the pitcher on this list that comes at the lowest price. All of the pitchers in this tier would instantly make the Yankees better. Having DeGrom or Bumgarner at the top of the rotation is amazing to dream about in the postseason. Having young controllable arms like Martinez and Snell would make the Yankees better for the next five years. I have reservations about Snell given his innings, but I still think that all of these pitchers can help the Yankees win in October. Cashman should not fixate on one player. He should trade for the best player on this list at the best available price.