As we inch ever closer to pitchers and catchers reporting for Spring Training, two New York Yankees starters are speaking out on the state of the team’s current rotation.
“It is what it is, [but] you always need more,” Sabathia told NJ.com’s Brendan Kuty. “It’s a long season. You never know what’s going to happen. The more arms we got, the better.”
Tuesday saw Yankees ace Luis Severino join his rotation-mate in pulling for another arm.
Luis Severino said he thought that the Yankees were going to trade for Gerrit Cole, and still hopes Cashman can add a starter. "Houston got him, but of course, I think we need somebody else. But until we have it, I think we're good right now."
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) February 6, 2018
“Houston got him [Gerrit Cole], but of course, I think we need someone else,” Severino told MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. “But until we have it, I think we’re good right now.”
With the season approaching and arms like Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta still unsigned, there is still an opportunity for the Yankees to add the game-changer that Sabathia and Severino want. But should they?
No, they shouldn’t.
It’s understandable that Sabathia wants to add another arm. He’s reaching the end of his excellent career and he wants to add another ring to the potential Hall of Fame resume. It’s only natural that he wants to bolster the weakest part of the team this year, the back of the rotation.
Severino’s desire for another arm is a bit more concerning. After throwing a career-high 193.1 innings in 2017, is the soon-to-be 24-year-old righty worried about his ability to hold up for a full season in 2018?
Or are their cries for help based on a lack of faith in Jordan Montgomery and the rest of the rotation?
While many believe in Montgomery, nobody can say for sure that he will reproduce his excellent rookie season, that saw him go 9-7 with a 3.88 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. Masahiro Tanaka struggled at times last year and has dealt with injuries in the past. Same goes for Sonny Gray.
Even Sabathia himself must acknowledge that he doesn’t have his overpowering stuff anymore and relying on finesse can lead to disaster if he has an off-day. We saw what happens when Severino isn’t on—remember his performance against Minnesota in the AL Wild Card Game?
For Sabathia, a guy who may be entering his last season, it makes sense that he would try to use the respect that he commands within the organization to push them into making another “win-now” move.
But this is the time for the team to be patient with the rotation. For all the talk of how the Yankees are once again in the top-tier of teams this year, it’s easy to forget that this team is still building. It would be a mistake to mortgage pieces that could play important roles in the new dynasty, especially when it comes to starting pitchers.
Montgomery has proven in just one year that he can get people out. It may not be flashy, he may not overpower hitters, but he gets consistent weak contact. Consider this: Among MLB pitchers to log at least 150 innings last season, Montgomery sat tied with Max Scherzer—yes, that Max Scherzer—for the game’s lowest hard-contact rate at 26.5 percent.
At this stage in his career, he may not be able to give the team seven innings every start, but he gets outs, keeps the runs down, and puts the team in a position to win. The Yanks’ increased offensive prowess will only help Montgomery, as teams are left desperate for runs and may start forcing the issue at the plate, making finesse pitching for bad contact an excellent weapon.
Prospects Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield are also considered to be destined for solid careers as starting pitchers. Should injuries hit the rotation, they’ll likely be the first arms to be called up to fill in. It’s only a matter of time before they transition to the big leagues for good, so creating a logjam by adding another arm on a long contract would hurt their development.
Look, nobody blames Sabathia or Severino for being verbal about wanting to add talented players. That is exactly what you want from a current (and future) clubhouse leader, trying to force upper management to put the team in a better position to win. Obviously, adding an arm like Darvish or Arrieta would catapult the Yankees to the top of the power rankings and, fueled by a phenomenal offense and killer bullpen, deep into the playoffs.
But the Yankees are in a position to build something truly special with excellent young talent that could create a new dynasty. Holding off on any flashy signings and rolling into the season believing in the arms they have is the right way to go.