The New York Yankees have added a couple starters, but their rotation is still far from elite.
After a slow start to the offseason, the New York Yankees have made their fair share of moves. This was highlighted most recently by the acquisition of Jameson Taillon from the Pittsburgh Pirates. There’s a lot to like about the 29-year-old righty.
Taillon, who is good friends with Gerrit Cole from their days together in Pittsburgh, is coming off his second Tommy John surgery that forced him to miss most of the 2019 season and all of the 2020 season.
Taillon’s injury history is concerning, but he’s looked good in his brief MLB career. In 82 career games, Taillon has a 3.67 ERA, 3.55 FIP, 3.67 xFIP, 8.09 K/9, 2.26 BB/9, 0.93 HR/9, 1.25 WHIP, and 3.93 SIERA.
These are all solid numbers, especially for someone who’s expected to be more of a middle-of-the-rotation guy. But the acquisition comes with risk; he’s only pitched in 82 regular season games.
The addition of Taillon and others have been billed as a successful offseason. Even so, the Yankees’ rotation still isn’t elite.
The only guarantee of greatness is Cole, the rotation’s bona fide ace who can seemingly do no wrong. Everyone after him is a question mark.
Veteran addition Corey Kluber is also a question mark heading into the 2021 season. Adding Kluber was another good move by general manager Brian Cashman, even though $11 million is a little much. But then again, a two-time Cy Young winner is going to be expensive.
Kluber has been riddled with injuries lately. Most recently, he pitched just one inning as a member of the Texas Rangers in 2020 before being sidelined with a shoulder injury for the remainder of the season.
The Yankees are running the risk of Kluber getting hurt again. Additionally, Kluber is 34 years old. A soon-to-be 35 year old pitcher who’s been decimated by injuries might have velocity issues.
However, Kluber was one of the very best pitchers in the game for years, so he’s very high-risk, high-reward. Kluber should fit in nicely in the middle of that rotation, which will be scary if he can stay healthy and be a threat on the mound. The keyword here is “if”.
Luis Severino will likely reclaim his expected role as the team’s number two behind Cole when he’s able to return in July. However, there are two issues with Severino.
To begin with, the Yankees are going to have to make do without him for at least half of the season, since he’s still recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Second of all, even when he does return, who knows exactly how good he’ll be. Severino hasn’t pitched in an MLB game since the 2019 season, and returning from Tommy John surgery certainly isn’t always easy.
Severino is a great pitcher so there’s a chance that he’s more than solid when he returns, but there’s also a chance that he isn’t. The organization will hope that he’ll pick up right where he left off.
Deivi Garcia is another uncertainty. The 21-year-old has pitched in just six MLB games, but he didn’t look terrible last season, even though he was considered to have been rushed to the big leagues.
Garcia’s numbers were ugly, but he had several great moments. He’s going to have to take a significant leap in 2021, or else the Yankees are in trouble. The pitching staff can’t afford to wait for Garcia to take his time to adjust to MLB and will need him to be at least decent for most of the year.
Jordan Montgomery has drawn comparisons to Andy Pettitte, but has had trouble staying healthy and consistent. His history would indicate that he’ll be a not-great, back-of-the-rotation guy once again for the Yankees, who will hope that isn’t the case and that the big lefty can stay healthy and step his game up.
Lastly is Domingo German who, quite frankly, shouldn’t even be in the rotation. German has had his moments, but he hasn’t been too good as a starter and is best-suited as a middle reliever.
Ideally, if everything goes well for the Yankees, German will only be used as a bullpen option.
Evidently, the only member of New York’s rotation who guarantees success is Cole. Everyone else is a gamble.
The first step to this rotation being successful is ensuring that all of these guys are able to stay healthy. The fact that so many of them are injury-prone makes this a big ask.
Secondly, several of these pitchers either have not had great numbers throughout their careers or haven’t pitched well lately. That will have to change if the Yankees hope to have a successful rotation.
The team will need each one of these starters to stay healthy and play at their absolute best in order for this rotation to be considered elite and, honestly, it’s unlikely that they can all do that.