The New York Yankees still have lots of work to do in the pitching department after signing former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber.
Corey Kluber signing with the New York Yankees was almost an extra prize of some sorts.
Think about it. A two-time Cy Young Award winner signing with the New York Yankees was almost an afterthought. Reigning AL batting champ DJ LeMahieu had just signed a six-year, $90 million deal to return to the Bronx. Almost 12 hours later, Kluber signed a one-year pact for $11 million.
Now, I could go on and on about how Kluber is the cool Transformers truck that came with your lunch at Burger King. On top of his Cy Young trophies, he’s someone who can eat innings. He’s generally reliable in the playoffs. As far as free agent arms go, the Yankees certainly could have done worse.
However, don’t celebrate his arrival just yet. In fact, hold off on the fireworks until the Yankees add some more pitching behind Corey Kluber, because he alone won’t fix the team’s pitching woes.
How does he fit?
First and foremost, I’m very skeptical of this move. I even said last month how his recent injury history makes him a strange fit in New York. On top of breaking his arm in 2019, he pitched a single inning for the Texas Rangers last year before tearing up his shoulder.
Oh, and let’s not forget Kluber tossed 1,091.1 innings from 2014-2018. In fact, I’ll go the extra mile and say I’ll be shocked if he throws more than 110 innings this season. Add that he’s a sinkerballer with diminished fastball velocity playing in short-porched Yankee Stadium, and that’s yet another worry.
Despite that, the Yankees believe Kluber can pitch well, and they certainly have an inside track. He has a longstanding relationship with Eric Cressey, the athletic trainer the Yankees hired to modernize their training staff after the 2019 season. There’s no way general manager Brian Cashman would have even pursued Kluber if Cressey didn’t think his arm could handle a full season.
More importantly, Cressey is tight with pitching coach Matt Blake, so the Yankees could easily know something others don’t.
Thus, Corey Kluber figures to slot in as the New York Yankees’ No. 2 starter behind ace Gerrit Cole come Opening Day. That’s all fine and dandy, but not nearly enough to make up for the Yankees’ gross lack of MLB-ready arms.
New York needs more
Think of New York’s rotation right now. Cole and Kluber easily occupy the top two spots. High-upside lefty Jordan Montgomery figures to be the third man, followed by youngster Deivi Garcia. The fifth spot could be occupied by anyone from an opener to the returning Domingo German, and Luis Severino will be back from Tommy John surgery in the summer.
No disrespect to any of those players, but Gerrit Cole is the only surefire trustworthy arm in the Yankees’ rotation. Even if Corey Kluber is healthy, are we really trusting Montgomery and Garcia to hold up the back end of the rotation? No, Cashman needs to make the most of the $5-7 million the Yankees have left to spend and add a reliable arm.
Maybe Masahiro Tanaka or James Paxton can come back on a major hometown discount. Perhaps Taijuan Walker can be signed if his late-night Twitter antics mean he really does want to be a Yankee. Jon Lester and Cole Hamels would be great on one-year deals, as I’ve mentioned. If Hal Steinbrenner decides to go full Monopoly Guy and throw the budget out the window, that could put Trevor Bauer in the cards.
Okay, so maybe not Bauer, but even so. The New York Yankees still have a glaring pitching need, and Corey Kluber won’t be the cure-all for the staff’s woes.
Mind you, none of this is to say I hope Corey Kluber fails in pinstripes. After all, on top of covering the team for work, I’m also a fan who wants to see them succeed in their quest for a World Series. This means supporting Kluber despite the many reservations I have about his arm.
And when push comes to shove, Kluber’s probably going to be just fine. He’ll be 35 in April and has enough miles on his right arm that expecting top Cy Young form is unrealistic. If he can make 20-something starts and pitch about 150 innings, he’ll have been worth the $11 million. Hell, maybe he can come back for another year if everything works out.
But the fact remains that excited as some people are for Corey Kluber to be a Yankee, he alone can’t fix pitching. Another arm is desperately needed not only to hold things down until Severino is back but in case he suffers a setback in rehab. This next addition doesn’t need to be a star, but rather just a serviceable arm who can be consistent on the mound.
Here’s hoping Kluber isn’t the end of the Yankees’ offseason. The arms are out there, so now it’s just a matter of Cashman finding the right fit.