New York Yankees Should Pursue A Crosstown Swap To Bolster Rotation
Brad Barr, USATSI

With the New York Yankees seeking pitching help to improve an inadequate starting rotation, they should look no further than Queens for sufficient answers.

Starting pitching most definitely held the New York Yankees back from the playoffs in 2016, and it will again in 2017 if immediate solutions are not brought to the table.

Joe Girardi’s starting staff ranked 19th in the league in ERA (4.44), 21st in wins (48), and were one of only four units that failed to record a complete game all season. 

Kicking off the campaign with an optimistic outlook, the Yankees fielded a rotation consisting of Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, Luis Severino, and CC Sabathia — in that particular order. By season’s end, the questionable and deficient bunch retained Tanaka, had Sabathia backing him up, and rounded itself out with Pineda, Luis Cessa, and Bryan Mitchell.

Severino — expected to fill an ace-like role in his sophomore season — majorly flopped, Pineda was so bad out of the gates that he was nearly demoted, and Eovaldi tore a tendon in his elbow clean off, resulting in two surgeries — including Tommy John — and a reserved seat in the Yankee Stadium dugout for all of 2017.

Aside from Tanaka being the ace they so desperately needed and Sabathia having an unforeseen stellar bounce-back campaign, the rotation was as makeshift as makeshift gets.

Every time through, Larry Rothschild hoped and prayed that his starters would somehow eke out six innings of quality ball. Rarely did it happen.

I would be captain obvious to say that the Yankees will pursue improvements to their pitching staff this offseason, especially considering the lineup will continue its youthful, revitalized, run-scoring ways.

At a first glance, the available starters in free agency are atrocious. Without getting too personal, when a 43-year-old Bartolo Colon is your most reliable option in the 2017 class, you are simply out of luck.

It is a no-brainer that Brian Cashman will be looking for pitching help by way of the trade market. The problem, however, lies in protection.

Thanks to the trade deadline fire sale, a logical argument can be made that the Yankees are in possession of baseball’s best farm system. Any trade for a true front-end starter — which is what the Yankees need to contend for the AL East crown — would require cutting ties with the cream of the crop in a revered system.

Evident is the fact that the great minds in the Bronx are not ready to dismantle any aspects of a promising future.

What Cashman and company have to realize, though, is that their answer goes to work a mere 11 miles and 20 minutes away, without traffic, via the Grand Central Parkway.

The answer resides in Flushing, and on a team that will not pick at the Yankees’ youth, but rather the established commodities that can help them avenge a season of underperformance. The answer is an excess piece to a New York Mets team destined to return to the spotlight in 2017.

That answer is Zack Wheeler, a man who has had his comeback from Tommy John surgery derailed multiple times. In other words, a low-risk, high-reward endeavor which can ultimately grasp one of the brightest young arms in the game — if it pans out.

Sure, luring a 26-year-old, hard-throwing, absurdly talented right-hander from a crosstown foe will not be easy. Fortunately, both sides contractually own something the other truly wants.

In Brian McCann, the Yankees have a proven veteran backstop, and capable leader, who has been forced out of starting catching duties and into a permanent DH role due to the sudden emergence of Gary Sanchez. What is lack of assurance in starting pitching for the Yanks is a constant struggle at the catching position for the Mets.

They continue to plug, plug, and plug some more, yet find no capable answer. The Travis d’Arnaud experiment could not have gone worse, and the rest is a last-ditch effort to solidify a position which has become a hole not only in the lineup but on the field.

With the 32-year-old veteran, the Mets would receive a perfect clubhouse fit who is more than capable of handling a pitching staff, stellar in nullifying a running game, and consistently a staple in the middle of big league lineups. Most importantly, a man who is experienced with the grind of a 162-game marathon.

The Yankees would be more than willing to take on some of the remaining two years and $34 million on McCann’s deal, but anyone would be naive to think that the Mets will not pay for a presence that checks off three of the areas they absolutely need.

In Wheeler, barring health, the Yanks receive the guy to slide behind Tanaka, bringing effectiveness, electricity, and variance to a staff demanding just that.

With that said, an extremely beneficial arrangement for both sides would need one more piece. A throw-in, but more.

Without completely dipping into the “future,” the add-on could be Tyler Austin, a 25-year-old with an explosive bat. Even more convenience is provided with the fact that he can play four positions, most notably right field and first base — two areas of question for the 2017 Mets.

The 2016 pinstriped call-up can easily be unleashed as a super-utility man in Flushing, serving as a vital, yet under-the-radar, addition to a swap containing two big names.

Of course, dependent on outcome and results, one side always gets the “better” of an arrangement. Before Opening Day even comes around, though, the move will look like a deadlock on paper.

The Mets will retain their rotation depth, which is plentiful and wholesome, particularly with imperative returning pieces — Harvey, deGrom, Matz. In the process, the Yankees maintain their catching depth, with Austin Romine set to backup baseball’s newest superstar in Sanchez.

While maintaining solidity in their respective areas of sacrifice, both boroughs get help in serious areas of need, fortifying their chances to be among the 10 qualifying postseason teams next year.

Cash? Sandy? Get it done.