With CC Sabathia going on the disabled list, the Yankees have lost 3/5th’s of their starting staff. Ivan Nova is out for the season. Michael Pineda is likely out until June. Sabathia will be out for at least two weeks and possibly longer as he goes for a second opinion on his right knee. Once upon a time the Yankees had eight starting pitchers competing for five spots in the rotation. That may seem like long ago now, but was really only six weeks ago when Pineda won the fifth starter job over Adam Warren, Vidal Nuno and David Phelps in spring training. Now the Yankees appear to scraping the bottom of the barrel to fill out the rotation.
The three pitchers who lost the fifth starter’s job in spring training have already been pressed into service. Nuno and Phelps have already entered the rotation, taking the place of Nova and Pineda respectively. Warren has developed into a prime set-up man in the Yankees’ bullpen. He has added a few ticks on his fastball and has been lights-out in the late innings this season, despite picking up the loss Sunday after a season high amount of pitches. He is expected to remain in the bullpen. The other option on the big league club is Alfredo Aceves. Aceves has pitched well out of the ‘pen since his call up. Ironically, he has pitched in both games started by Sabathia, so he is seemingly on the same rest days as Sabathia. In the minors, there is little depth ready to step up.
The revolving door at the back end of the bullpen was thought to have been finally closed with the addition of Aceves and his instant success. However, if he moves to the rotation, that door will swing open once again. Matt Daley was called up before Sunday’s game and Chase Whitley was scratched from his scheduled start over the weekend so he may get his turn next. The lack of a legitimate long man has hurt the Bombers already this season. The plethora of pitchers riding the Scranton Shuttle have thus far shown an innate inability to get batters out and keep a game close. One of the biggest reasons for the Yankees’ run differential being so poor is the fact that they have been blown out on several occasions already in this young season. And not there simply is no logical choice for who will fill that void.
The current situation cries out for a trade. Few, if any, will say that a rotation of Masahiro Tanaka, Hiroki Kuroda, Nuno, Phelps and Aceves is playoff-caliber, let alone championship caliber. Sabathia may been struggling this season but I don’t think you will win many arguments that he is worse than Nuno, Phelps or Aceves. I also don’t think the dominant Pineda we saw in April was a product of pine tar only. However, since Pineda is out until June and Sabathia is out longer than two weeks, the Yankees may be stuck with this rotation for quite awhile and that does not bode well for their playoff chances. But what moves can Brian Cashman make? Starting pitching comes at a premium in this league and there is not much on the market this early. However, Cashman might be able to make a smaller, but no less insignificant move to shore up the back end of the Yankees’ bullpen. Trading for a long reliever/spot starter type would make perfect sense. The Braves have no room for Alex Wood in their rotation and have pushed him to the bullpen. The Yankees may be tempted to move Yangervis Solarate now when his value is the highest it’s been in his career and simply unlikely to continue. Solarte could replace the struggling Dan Uggla at second for the Braves and Wood could shore up both the ‘pen and rotation taking the spot that Aceves vacates. It could be a win for both sides.