Should the Yankees Make a Play for Yordano Ventura?
In the past few years, Yankees GM Brian Cashman has prioritized acquiring high-end talent that had fallen out of favor with their previous clubs, often at bargain rates. Royals starting pitcher Yordano Ventura fits that mold because a string of on-field altercations have reportedly left teammates and club officials frustrated with the 25-year-old flamethrower.
Astoundingly, Ventura has been the instigator of four separate benches-clearing brawls since the start of 2015. Most recently, he drilledManny Machado
in the ribs with a 99 mph fastball Tuesday night, which led to an especially nasty fight between the two men. However the most surprising part about the fight is that Royals catcherSalvador Perez
essentially gives Machado a free shot at Ventura, making little effort to protect his pitcher. After the game, managerNed Yost
admitted to reporters that his teammates were probably frustrated by Ventura’s actions at this point.
In fact, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports recently cited two rival executives who say Kansas City has been shopping their young righthander because they are tired of his immaturity. I’m sure it also doesn’t help that Ventura is having the worst year of his career. He has a 5.32 ERA and 5.29 FIP through his first three starts. His strikeouts are way down from his career averages (14.7% vs. 20.1%), his free passes are up (11.7% vs. 9.1%), leaving him as an undeniably below-average starting pitcher thus far this year. These antics would probably be much easier for teammates to swallow if he was mowing down batters the way he has in the recent past.
Because of their search for young, controllable starting pitching, I would bet that Cashman is intrigued by Ventura and will at least do his due diligence. An extension signed before 2015 guarantees Ventura $21 million through 2019 and contains a pair of reasonable $12 million club options for 2020 and 2021. Any team that acquires him would have the opportunity to control Ventura through his age 30 season.
The primary reason to bet on Ventura is his youth and velocity. Cashman made a similar play for Nathan Eovaldi prior to 2014 and that move has been a steal for the Yankees. Even with his struggles, he has the fourth highest average fastball velocity in the majors at 95.5 mph this year. He’s not just a thrower either. Ventura has two plus secondary pitches with his curveball and changeup when he is able to locate them. The tools are all there, and an accumulated 5.2 fWAR the last two seasons shows that he can be a real difference maker in the rotation.
Related Story: Nathan Eovaldi Continues to Evolve
The biggest downside with Ventura is the immaturity. As the Orioles’ Adam Jones told reporters after Tuesday’s game, “…between the ears, there is a circuit board off-balance.” Ventura’s temper and erratic behavior are certainly worrying, but the Yankees could count on their veteran clubhouse and professional culture putting an end to those problems. Joe Girardi seems to be an excellent “players’ manager” and I have every confidence in his ability to reach Ventura.
More from Yankees Rumors
- What on earth is going on with Yankees, Fernando Tatis Jr. and flight to New York?
- 4 former Yankees players New York can still reunite with in free agency
- 4 blockbuster trade targets that could be Yankees next ‘big’ move
- MLB Network Radio host thinks Yankees should shell out for Dansby Swanson
- Did wild Max Fried trade rumor give Yankees perfect fallback plan?
It’s difficult to say how the two clubs would match up if Kansas City does decide to move Ventura. The Royals enter Thursday only a game above .500 but are only 2.5 out in the tight AL Central race. Would they be interested in a rental like Aroldis Chapman or Carlos Beltran? Neither seems like a realistic fit for a Ventura trade. Surrendering other rumored trade chips like Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, and Brett Gardner would be too high a price given Ventura’s struggles. New York certainly isn’t going to put any of their top prospects on the table.
This deal getting done is probably dependent on the Yankees getting a significant discount, given Cashman’s predilection for bargain hunting. There are enough reasons to doubt Ventura’s ability and sanity that there is no reason to pay a premium for him. However, if a low-ball offer can get it done, similar to the Chapman trade this offseason, there is enough front of the rotation potential in his arm to make Ventura an intriguing target for the Yankees.