Barring any other significant trade, fresh off the acquisition of Aroldis Chapman the New York Yankees bullpen is more or less set in the back-end.
There is obviously a few more question marks in terms of depth, but those will be figured out in due time. As it relates to bullpen depth, the biggest question mark left for the 2016 edition of the New York Yankees is who will be the odd man out of the rotation.
As it currently stands the Yankees have six, arguably even seven players who are all vying for a spot in the five man rotation come opening day. Those names include Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Luis Severino, Nathan Eovaldi, CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, and even Bryan Mitchell to an extent.
All signs point to the rotation looking like this come opening day:
1. Masahiro Tanaka
2. Michael Pineda
3. Luis Severino
4. Nathan Eovaldi
5. CC Sabathia
Admittedly it’s not the most inspiring bunch, but it is what the Yankees have to work with.
Injury and performance concerns aside, this Yankees rotation comes with its share of question marks. Based on this configuration, Ivan Nova and Bryan Mitchell become the odd men out. Mitchell was not expected to be in the rotation, and serves better in the bullpen role, so that is no surprise. However, Nova is a bit more surprising if not included in the rotation.
Obviously Nova wasn’t good last year, as evidenced by his 5+ ERA in just under 100 innings. But, he has been decent in previous seasons. Nova spent most of 2014 on the disabled list, but was a decent pitcher for the Yankees from 2011-2013, accumulating a cumulative WAR of 6.3 in those three years. These aren’t eye-popping numbers, but Nova was a decent contributor to those Yankee rotations.
Based on the other pitchers set to be in the Yankees rotation, it is clear why Nova is the odd man out.
He does not have the talent of Tanaka, Pineda or even Eovaldi, the youth of Severino, or the large contract of Sabathia. Coming off a rather significant injury, Nova should very well be handled with care.
However, that is the crux of the Yankees rotation as it pertains to the setup.
For a closer look at these concerns, the table below shows the Yankees pitchers by innings pitched last year:
As the table demonstrates, not a single one of the Yankees starters last year pitched over 200 innings. Four went over 150 innings: Tanaka, Pineda, Eovaldi and Sabathia. But, all four come with significant injury histories that impacted their seasons last year. As it stands, the Yankees could use as much depth as they can get, which makes Nova, and to an extent Mitchell, all the more important. The Yankees need depth in their rotation, perhaps more than the average team. Nova gives them a strong potential option to be used in that manner.
Despite rumors about a possible trade involving Nova, the Yankees would be wise to hang onto him given their significant potential need for that sort of pitching depth.