Bomber Bites With Jumping Joe–Should the Yankees Trust Their Young Starters?
By Joe Vitulli
The Yankees have stated that they will not be making a play for a big name starting pitcher this offseason, despite the rare occasion of several elite starters being available on the open market. Jon Lester, James Shields and Max Scherzer are all free agents, but the Yankees are apparently not interested in their services. Instead, they appear content to try and resign Brandon McCarthy and ride their young starters like Shane Greene, Michael Pineda, Manny Banuelos, Chase Whitley, Luis Severino and others.
Mandatory Credit: Chad R. MacDonald.
Giving good young starters a chance to prove themselves in the big leagues is a good thing. This season the Yankees got to see what guys like Whitley, Greene, and Bryan Mitchell had to show in the majors. However, these opportunities came via injuries to their original starting staff. Pineda, CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka and Ivan Nova all spent time on the DL. It is quite another thing to give spots on the rotation to young unproven guys at the outset of the season.
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Before the 2008 season, the Bombers did just that. Without actually doing much at all to earn the positions, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy were given spots in the rotation. Hughes won a spot by virtue of being the number one prospect in the organization. Kennedy had a few good starts as a September call up the season before. Meanwhile, Joba would join the rotation in June as the Bombers bizarrely tried to convert him to a starter and keep his innings under control.
The results from that season were a mess. The Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time since 1993. Kennedy went 0-4 with an ERA over 8 before being banished to Triple-A. Hughes was not much better going 0-4 with an ERA approaching 7 before going on the DL with hip injury for months. Chamberlain suffered through an up and down season going 4-3, which also included a trip to the DL.
Because of the failures of Kennedy, Hughes and the bizarre handling of Joba, the Yankees were forced to have a large number of games started that season by the likes of Darrell Rasner and Sidney Ponson. The Yankees cannot afford a repeat of those mistakes.
The Bomber rotation already has very real injury concerns heading into next season. No one knows how many starts Sabathia will be able to make on him bum knee and of those games he starts, how many he will actually be effective in. Tanaka still has a tear in his elbow. Nova is out until the All-Star break. Pineda has been excessively injury prone throughout his career. There is no doubt that whoever is the sixth man of the rotation will make 20 starts next season. If the 2015 season goes anything like the 2014 season, so will the seventh and eighth starters.
The Yankees should not just assume that young unproven starters will be able shoulder the load for next season. They should not be giving away rotation spots to young players simply because they are cheaper. That is not the way to build a championship team. They need to maintain their depth in the rotation and let the younger guys continue to develop at Triple-A and have them available when the injury bug inevitably hits.