Gio Gonzalez
ESNY Graphic

New York’s starting rotation has been upgraded from a year ago, but with recent injuries, adding another piece becomes crucial.

Over the past few seasons, the New York Yankees have endured an up-and-down starting rotation. From guys like Masahiro Tanaka pitching yearly with a partial tear in his UCL and Luis Severino still finding his way through his early-career struggles, the rotation has left a lot to be desired.

Not to mention the old dog, CC Sabathia, nearly pitched on one knee last season. Earlier in 2018, he was hampered by an ailing hip and hamstring tightness, all while he has dealt with chronic knee pain forcing him to wear a brace in recent years. Lastly, and not forgotten, was the heart procedure he had completed in early December. In detail, he had a stent inserted into his heart to relieve a blockage in one of the arteries.

The 2019 starting rotation that was upgraded with the addition of James Paxton (another starter with recent injury scares), still requires an insurance policy. Sabathia is another year older and it’s only a matter of time before he bottoms out. Masahiro has his moments of inconsistency and is still pitching with a damaged elbow. Furthermore, Severino must hope he can bounce back from the abysmal second half he put up a season ago.

These are all reasons why adding another viable piece to the rotation is necessary.

Throwing money at the likes of Dallas Keuchel, or trading a young, rising star like Miguel Andujar for a player like Bumgarner or Kluber is not ideal. But, the rotation is begging for a sixth starter.

It’s painful to realize that the Yankees starters, minus Luis Severino, are all on the wrong side of 30-years-old. Two of which are upwards of 35—J.A. Happ and Sabathia.

The Yankees rotation is expected to have its moments. When you’re dealing with the mileage these veterans have on them it makes adding another pitcher realistic.

Can we expect Tanaka to not go through a slump or a minor injury? Can we expect to see Severino consistent for the entire year? Is J.A. Happ past his prime? Can Sabathia pitch a full season?

Those are the questions that are left to deal with. Hence why adding a few of the soon-to-be-mentioned free agents make ideological sense.

Gio Gonzalez is first on tap. A known enemy to the team across town, Gonzalez, a long-time Washington National, was dealt to the contending Milwaukee Brewers during the season last year. Before being shipped off, he was fighting through a mediocre season. He was 7-11 with a 4.57 ERA and 1.53 WHIP. After taking his talents to the “cheesehead” state, Gonzalez put up outstanding numbers in just five starts. He went 2-0 with an ERA of 2.13 and a WHIP of 0.95.

While there have been talks between Gonzalez the crosstown rival Mets, the Yankees can become serious players if he indeed is looking for a short-term deal. His age, 33, is making it difficult to find the right deal. But aside from Keuchel, he has moved in as a highly-sought after southpaw. A middle-of-the-rotation piece is a safety valve the Bombers would like to plug up.

Another name that has gotten some attention of late is the 2017 AL Wild Card starter for the Minnesota Twins—Ervin Santana. Most will remember his short-lived outing at E. 161st St. two seasons ago. Specifically, a pitch that was tagged by Didi Gregorius to tie up the game in the bottom half of the first. Furthermore, Santana was taken deep by Brett Gardner after Santana came up and in on the lefty earlier in the at-bat.

Santana is intriguing for two reasons. First, he’s coming off a year where injuries and rehab from surgery made 2018 a wash. He finished the season with only five starts. But perhaps he can come back stronger after taking the necessary time to recover.

Going into 2018 he was coming off a stellar 2017 campaign where he went 16-8, with 3.28 ERA while leading the league with three shutouts, five complete games and being selected to his second All-Star game appearance. Clearly, he has the arm and endurance to be a competent starter when he’s healthy.

The second reason is all about money. The Yanks have already proved to us they are not willing to break the bank on the highly-sought after free agents. Ervin Santana would be a low-priced option to help solidify the back end of the rotation. He has playoff experience and if things don’t work out, he can provide a long-relief option from the bullpen.

Aside from the injury-plagued 2018 season, Santana’s ERA was decreasing every year since the 2015 season—from 4.00 to 3.38, to 3.28 in 2017.

Dallas Keuchel remains the most intriguing unsigned starter. A former Cy Young winner and left-handed ace, he has hit a stone wall similar to what Jake Arrieta experienced in 2018. Remember, pitchers and catchers, report next week, while top-flight free agents remain unsigned.

If it is indeed true that Keuchel is seeking north of $25 million per year, then he is in for a rude awakening. A pitcher who has been on a decline in both numbers and velocity will not sign anything close to that. He is not the same pitcher he once was and with the way the owners in baseball are transforming the market for free agents, he doesn’t stand a chance to net that kind of payday.

His plus side is that for Yankee Stadium where left-handed power can feast, he provides a counter. His Gold-Glove fielding is also a plus but not worth breaking the bank. A fair deal would range somewhere from $16 million to $23 million, but for New York to break the bank on a guy like him wouldn’t make much sense. Hence, why a lower-priced option is ideal for the position they are in.

The New York Yankees know they need to add insurance. The team can’t be expected to go through the whole season without losing Sabathia or another aging starter for some period of time.

Adding something to this rotation really isn’t an option, it’s a must.

I am currently enrolled at Montclair State University as a senior studying Sports Media and Journalism. I spend most of my days when I'm not at school; writing, podcasting, and preparing for my radio show. Thus meaning my life is sports. I spend almost all my time in and around sports because it is my life. I am an eternal, die-hard Yankees fan, along with Jets, Knicks and Rangers. I am 23 years of age and live in Central New Jersey (if people still consider a Central NJ).