After forming a formidable bullpen and improving the hot corner, one question still faces the New York Yankees.
The New York Yankees already performed some patch work on what appears to be a fringe playoff team by pulling off a blockbuster deal with the rebuilding Chicago White Sox.
Adding David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle will be able to help turn around what is an abysmal 9-18 record in one-run games and new starting third baseman Todd Frazier (.760 OPS) will bring an improvement to the hot corner. The Yankees currently rank 24th in MLB with a .692 OPS from third base in 2017.
What general manager Brian Cashman didn’t do however was make an addition to the starting rotation. With Michael Pineda out for the year, CC Sabathia no longer the anchor, while Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery have been pleasant surprises, Masahiro Tanaka is having the worst season of his career.
With what seemingly looks like a revolving door for the fifth spot in the rotation, one of the last things the Yankees need to do to establish themselves as legitimate contenders is add a starting pitcher. Is it time for Cashman to pull off yet another sneaky buy and improve the unit? Or should he keep his finger off the trigger? Thankfully, the cards are in his hands.
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Pineda’s injury may spark conversation about the need to hit the trade market in search of an arm like Sonny Gray, but it should also remind us that the American League is a clustered up right now. There are five sub-500 teams within five games of a playoff spot and if you’re looking at the postseason picture from now, it seems destined that whoever survives glut of “competitors” will likely take on the Houston Astros in the ALCS.
With that said, Baseball Prospectus has the Yankees at a 66.2 percent chance of making the postseason. With the additions of Robertson, Kahnle and Frazier along with the return of injured players like Starlin Castro, Aaron Hicks and Matt Holliday, the squad should be able to tread water or even be better than they have been since the middle of June.
Shipping top-tier prospects for rental starters with an inflated cost due to the thin market is counterproductive in year two of a retool. A starter with control would require another top prospect and more close-to-major-league-ready talent — a price that the Yankees are clearly unwilling to pay. Adding team-friendly contracts like Robertson and Kahnle are different. Those two relievers help now and form an intimidating bullpen for the foreseeable future.
It’s back to being patient. Options for the rotation include potentially stretching out Chad Green (1.70 ERA, 12.4 k/9) to be a starter again or promote Chance Adams (10-3, 1.94 ERA between Double and Triple-A this season) when he finally shows signs of improved command. Caleb Smith (7-0, 2.11 ERA in 15 Triple-A starts) is on the 40-man and also an option.
In an assessment year, these options are the ones you crave.
That gives you a chance. As mentioned before, the Yankees will be in the thick of things in terms of playoff picture come October. The flux of teams in contention is asinine, but with the improvements that will come from Tuesday’s trade, New York has a good as shot as anyone to compete for an ALCS appearance — especially with a bullpen that features Robertson, Kahnle, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman.
Considering what went down in 2016, how can you ask for anything else?