The New York Yankees need lots of pitching help on a tight budget. Of these five arms, any would work on a short-term basis.
The New York Yankees desperately need pitching.
It’s practically the worst-kept secret in baseball. Think about it. Gerrit Cole is the ace, but who comes next? At this rate, streaky lefty Jordan Montgomery would be second behind him. He’s followed by untested rookie Deivi Garcia. Luis Severino is still around, but won’t be back until at least June because of Tommy John surgery.
And who comes after them? Clarke Schmidt? He still needs at least a half-season in the minors, maybe more. Domingo German is still technically on the roster, but he hasn’t pitched in a year and is coming off a domestic violence suspension. The Yankees have made it clear he has to show remorse, and he’s also getting lit up in the Dominican Winter League.
Don’t count on re-signing Masahiro Tanaka either. General manager Brian Cashman all but admitted he wouldn’t be back in 2021. DJ LeMahieu is and should remain the front office’s top priority, but pitching can’t be on the back burner for too long.
Face it, fans. The New York Yankees have a serious pitching problem heading into 2021. Given how long negotiations with LeMahieu have gone thus far, it’s obvious the Bronx Bombers are on a tight budget.
This means looking for affordable pitching on shorter deals. If Cashman wants the best value, he should consider one or more of the following hurlers.
Honorable Mention: Chris Archer
At one point, Chris Archer was a prime ace on some average Tampa Bay Rays teams. From 2015-17, he struck out 734 hitters in 614.1 innings and posted a 3.77 ERA. Archer also finished fifth in AL Cy Young voting in 2015.
He was traded to the Pirates, and the bottom fell out. Archer declined quickly and missed last season recovering from thoracic outlet surgery. Pittsburgh declined his $11 million option for 2021 last month.
For the New York Yankees, Archer could prove to be a diamond in the rough. Pitchers are rarely ever the same after thoracic outlet surgery, so he can probably be signed for around $5 million, maybe less. Think of signing him as Troy Tulowitzki in 2019, but with a pitcher.
Still, signing Archer is putting a lot of faith in his health even if he is just 32 years old. Unless New York is absolutely desperate, he probably isn’t on their radar.
No. 5: Corey Kluber
You’ll recall that I recently said the New York Yankees shouldn’t pursue Corey Kluber. Honestly, I very much feel the same. He’s coming off a major shoulder operation and pitched a single inning for the Texas Rangers in 2020. Furthermore, his fastball velocity is dropping.
But if Tanaka is indeed on the way out, then the Yankees can’t afford to be picky. Kluber is almost 35, but still a two-time Cy Young winner. Taking the last two injury-shortened years out of the equation, he’s an excellent control pitcher and owns a 1.08 career WHIP. When he’s healthy, he eats innings faster than Pippin and Merry can scarf breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, and afternoon tea.
Kluber might be expensive on a one-year pact. After all, his accolades speak for themselves. Still, if the Yankees attach a reachable vesting option, he might sign at a slight discount.
No. 4: Jon Lester
Lester turns 37 next month and is no spring chicken. In fact, his last two seasons showed the veteran lefty’s stuff to be on the decline. He posted a 4.64 ERA over that stretch and, per Fangraphs, his fastball velocity has dropped every year since 2016. In 2020, it topped out at just 89.2 mph.
But Lester knows the AL East well, having spent the first eight-and-a-half years of his career with the Boston Red Sox. He has three World Series rings and brings valuable experience to a younger team. Even with Cole is an established ace, having Lester alongside the youngsters for a year helps.
As for money, Lester is coming off a $155 million contract. A one-year deal worth anywhere from $7-10 million could be enough to bring him to the Bronx.
No. 3: Cole Hamels
Like Lester, Hamels is a lefty who can probably still go even though his best days are behind him. He spent last year with the Atlanta Braves, but made just one start in the shortened season due to triceps and shoulder trouble.
This means that Hamels, who turns 37 next week, is a prime candidate for a one-year deal. He’s a four-time All-Star and former World Series MVP. According to Jon Heyman, “several teams” are interested in the lanky lefty.
And where do the New York Yankees fit in? It might not seem clear, but Hamels is a prime scrap heap option for Cashman. Given his injury issues in 2020, a one-year deal loaded with incentives could be enough to sign him.
No. 2: Brett Anderson
Brett Anderson has had an interesting career. He was another hyped pitching prospect for the Oakland Athletics, but injuries kept him from reaching his potential. Since debuting in 2009. he has thrown over 100 innings in a season just four times.
And yet, Anderson has hung on. On top of two stints with Oakland, he has pitched for five other MLB teams. Most recently, he spent 2020 with the Milwaukee Brewers and went 4-4 with a 4.21 ERA in ten starts.
Injuries will always be a concern for Anderson, but the New York Yankees need to entertain the idea of signing him. He doesn’t need much, maybe a one-year deal with an option for a second. Yankee Stadium won’t bother him, as his groundball rate (GB%) is for 56.8% for his career. Anderson also allowed just over a home run per nine innings last season and 1.9 BB/9.
Along with the next man on the list, Anderson should very much be on the Yankees’ radar.
No. 1: Jose Quintana
It wasn’t long ago that the New York Yankees were interested in Quintana, then of the Chicago White Sox. At the time, the young lefty had just posted a 3.41 ERA over his first five MLB seasons. Sadly, Chicago’s asking price proved too high, and Quintana was shipped to the crosstown rival Cubs in 2017.
Though Quintana is prone to walks, hard contact, and posted a 4.24 ERA for the Cubbies, he’s still an ideal candidate for the Yankees. He’s given up just over one home run per nine innings (HR/9) in the last three years, which makes the idea of pitching in Yankee Stadium less daunting. In fact, Quintana owns a 3.01 ERA against the Yankees’ four AL East rivals.
That said, though Quintana dealt with a bunch of injuries and started just one of four appearances in 2020, he won’t automatically come cheap. He turns 32 in January and his recent struggles can be blamed on bad luck.
For a two-year deal with an option for a third, the Yankees might be able to convince Quintana to put on the pinstripes.