Who on the New York Yankees’ staff is worthy of leading the rotation? We all thought it be Masahiro Tanaka in 2015. Were we all wrong?
By Bryan Pol
In December of 2008, fresh off his monster campaign serving as the ace of the Cleveland Indians and the Milwaukee Brewers, the New York Yankees signed CC Sabathia to seven year, $161 million contract, then the highest deal ever signed by a starting pitcher (later eclipsed by Seattle’s Felix Hernandez in 2013 and Max Scherzer in 2014).
In Joe Girardi’s second year as manager, CC Sabathia, behind a 19-8 record and a 3.37 ERA in the regular season, would lead the Yankees back to the postseason, winning the ALCS MVP and his club a World Series championship in light of a 3-1 record and a 1.92 ERA in five postseason starts.
In the next two seasons, Sabathia would go 40-15 with a 3.09 ERA, a sterling tenure that allowed him to opt out of his 2009 deal in the 2011 offseason, a newly retooled contract that amounted to larger per-year salary and an additional year on the deal.
Although he would finish in the top-five in Cy Young voting every year from 2009 to 2011 and make the American League All-Star team from 2010 to 2012, Sabathia, going 15-6 with a 3.38 ERA in 2012, would never be the same thereafter.
Sabathia’s weight has fluctuated from season to season, resulting in chronic knee problems (potential microfracture surgery could effectively end his career) and a sizable loss in velocity of his fastball. He managed only eight starts in 2014 and now, a former ace forced out of the Yankee rotation, Sabathia has only mustered twenty-four inconsistent starts in 2015. His ERA has never dipped below 4.78 in the past three seasons, and his collective ERA the past two years has been well over 5.00.
Since Sabathia’s descent, the Yankees have been without a true ace in the rotation, despite signing Masahiro Tanaka to a mega deal (seven years, $155 million) in 2014, a contract inspired by the relatively rapid fall CC has endured.
Several times this season, three Yankee starters, from Tanaka to Nathan Eovaldi and Luis Severino, have displayed flashes of brilliance worthy of ace status. Even so, it remains a difficult prospect in deciding who amongst them is truly the leader of a staff that, as of Monday, has lead New York within a half game of the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East. Let us look at each pitcher’s resume on a case by case basis, both for and against their deserving the mantle of the ace of the New York Yankees rotation.