A 15-game winner has been added to the free agent market and the New York Yankees could be in the sweepstakes to bring him in.
According to Jesse Rogers of ESPN.com, Jason Hammel’s option has been declined after a $2 million buyout from the World Champion Cubs and the New York Yankees may be a fit.
Instead of earning $12 million for the team looking to defend their first title in 108 years, he will be a quality option in a relatively thin free-agent market.
The 34-year old right-hander went 15-10 in 2016 and pitched to a tune of a 3.83 ERA in 166.2 innings of work. Hammel struck out 7.8 batters per nine innings to coincide with a 42.1% ground-ball rate.
Over the last two years, Hammel owns a 3.79 ERA over 61 starts including 8.4 K/9 thanks to the improvement of his sinker — which registered 58.78 ground balls per BIP (according to Brooks Baseball in 2016, a 16.82 improvement from 2015.
One red flag that arises is the elbow tightness the 11-year veteran experienced late in the regular season, which consequently kept him off the playoff roster against the Giants in the NLDS, Dodgers in the NLCS and Indians in the World Series.
So, his numbers and injury don’t encourage him as a promising arm that can improve a staff, yet the Yankees can sure use the improvement he can bring.
It’s been well documented that the rotation that finished the 2016 season 19th in earned run average (4.44) and gave up the third-most home runs (147) needs an impact arm in there for 2017.
Behind Masahiro Tanaka (third best ERA in AL), CC Sabathia (best season since 2012) and Michael Pineda (AL Leader in K/9), Joe Girardi’s staff has three unproven kids under 25-years old competing for two spots.
In 2016, one of those kids served up an 8.50 ERA as a starter (Luis Severino), one allowed 11 home runs in nine starts (Luis Cessa) and one had his season cut short due to an elbow injury (Chad Green).
One could also debate that Pineda — who is one of six players in MLB history to strikeout more than 200 but to maintain an ERA over 4.80 — is unproven as well, but New York needs to contemplate adding an arm into the crowded mix.
Plus, if Hammel were to join the rotation, he would likely take over as the number two man as his 2016 season throws him in as the man to supplant manager Joe Girardi’s ace, Masahiro Tanaka. (photo via FanGraphs.)
Hammel also gives New York a rotation option to avoid dealing their most underrated player or shipping away any members of their highly touted prospects.
While he can be shaky at times, he has struck out 18 batters in 24 career innings at Yankee Stadium with a 3.00 ERA and is one of the top starters available considering the weakness of this winter’s free agent class.
Furthermore, even considering the elbow tightness he experienced towards the end of his latest campaign, he could be, at the very least, a renowned back-end rotation signing for Cashman with the ability to give you six impactful innings every five days.
Unless you lived under a rock during the 2016 regular season, that may be precious and rare as the season progresses without any moves being made.