Look, these things happen. It’s baseball. There will be some stinkers over the course of 162 games. But while the Yankees have no reason to panic, that does not mean they cannot reflect on it.
Their sensational pitching staff has stumbled in Minneapolis. Jameson Taillon was ineffective on Tuesday to open the series against the Twins. But the bats were able to pummel their way to a 10-4 win. That did not happen Wednesday. Nestor Cortes was lit up for the first time in, er, forever in an 8-1 loss.
We get it. The Yankees are going to lose games. Starters are going to have bad outings. But even so, we cannot shake the feeling they should try to add another arm by the August trade deadline. While the rotation has been elite to date during this torrid start, this is all about October. And this three-game set – against the best team in the American League Central and a potential ALDS pest – might be a warning sign.
The Gerrit Cole big game skepticism will continue until he delivers his next gem in a pressure-packed spot. Luis Severino hasn’t started in October since 2019. Cortes and Taillon have never started a postseason game, and Jordan Montgomery’s lone appearance came in the 2020 pseudo-bubble. And this is all before we acknowledge the potential for injury – the Yankees have been remarkably fortunate with team health so far – and the fact the current construction of the team is going to tax the pitching.
The Yankees are playing many nip-and-tuck, low-scoring games this season. Partly because the balls are dead, but also partly because they insist on dotting their lineups with almost-automatic outs like Joey Gallo and Aaron Hicks. They are winning games because of the sensational pitching and improved defense. But we have seen Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton slow down against postseason pitching enough times to know that when those roughly three runs per game become five, trouble (and early exits) follow.
That said, the pitching trade market does not look terribly strong. The Red Sox’s surge completely dashes the pipe dream of a Nathan Eovaldi rental. Cincinnati’s Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle may not be worth the cost. The same goes for the Athletics’ Frankie Montas.
The Dodgers’ David Price would be intriguing. Unlikely, perhaps, but potentially worth the 2017 Justin Verlander-type gamble. The Phillies’ Kyle Gibson could be a under-the-radar fit, but his team is also climbing back into the race. Maybe the Pirates’ Jose Quintana, a former farm hand?
Starting pitching is unlikely to be the Yankees’ deadline focus – they need another bat or two first – but it should be on the radar. If there is ultimately no good fit, so be it. But general manager Brian Cashman should make the effort. While the rotation has been brilliant so far, there are still reasons for pause. And you can never have enough pitching.
James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]