Should the Yankees Pursue Ivan Nova During the Offseason?

Aug 17, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Ivan Nova (46) throws a pitch during the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kenny Karst-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 17, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Ivan Nova (46) throws a pitch during the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kenny Karst-USA TODAY Sports /

Former Yankees starting pitcher Ivan Nova looks like one of the top arms available in the 2016-2017 free agent class. Should New York consider a reunion?

2016 has been a disappointing year for the Yankees rotation. Outside of Masahiro Tanaka, it has been a story of struggles, inconsistencies, and injuries. Michael Pineda has been inconsistent for the entirety of the year, CC Sabathia has struggled since his amazing start to the season, and Nathan Eovaldi is out for the rest of this year and all of 2017 after getting the second Tommy John surgery of his career.

The 2016 season may not be finished but as we approach the offseason, there will likely be two open spots in the Yankees rotation. One spot should go to a prospect which will be determined during spring training, and the second spot should be given to a newly acquired player.

The Yankees will likely be active on the trade market as they consider big names like Jose Quintana, Chris Sale, or Sonny Gray. The free agent market will be very weak for starting pitchers this year but one possibility they should consider is a reunion with Ivan Nova.

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Ivan Nova’s Yankees career

The Yankees originally signed Nova as an international free agent in 2004 at the age of 16. He was not a highly touted prospect but had the upside of a promising pitcher. Nova made his major league debut in 2010 and since then he has shown flashes of brilliance but also periods of frustration.

His first full season was in 2011 where he finished 4th in the AL Rookie of the Year voting behind Jeremy Hellickson, Mark Trumbo, and Eric Hosmer. Nova posted a 3.70 ERA that year with a 16-4 record. This was a hopeful glimpse of what the future would hold for Ivan Nova but from here, things begin to get worse. In 2012 he had a 12-8 record with a 5.08 ERA. This was a very disappointing season for Nova but in 2013, he rebounded quite nicely.

In 139 innings he had a 9-6 record with a 3.10 ERA. In addition to his great stats, he won the AL Player of the Month in August. Yankees fans were beginning to regain confidence in Nova but sadly, this was the last time they would.

After four games in 2014, it was revealed Nova had torn his UCL and would be getting Tommy John Surgery. This would keep Nova out until July 24th of 2015 which was the start of another terrible season. He had a 6-11 Record with a 5.07 ERA in 94 innings last year. The struggles continued for Nova in 2016 and that’s when the Yankees decided to pull the trigger. On July 31st, Nova was traded to the Pirates for Tito Polo and Stephen Tarpley.

The Magic of Ray Searage

There were many people speculating Nova would get traded to the Pirates prior to the deal actually happening. The main reason why is that is the type of deal the Pirates made last year at the trade deadline.

On July 31st of 2015, the Mariners traded J.A. Happ to the Pirates in exchange for Adrian Sampson. J.A. Happ was struggling at the time of this trade with a 4.64 ERA but little did he know, the Pirates had a plan in place. Once Happ joined the Pirates, it was as if he had suddenly become a different pitcher. With the Pirates, he managed to have a 7-2 record while posting a 1.82 ERA in 63.1 innings.

It was a revelation for Happ and the man responsible for this success was the Pirates pitching coach, Ray Searage. Searage is regarded as one of, if not the top pitching coaches in baseball. After working with Searage, Happ began throwing his fastball much more and became very aggressive in the strike zone. This is what led to his success and these are type of projects the Pirates like to experiment with. The newest experiment for Searage is Ivan Nova.

The New Ivan Nova?

Since joining the Pirates, Nova has posted a 2.87 ERA in 31.1 innings with a 4-0 record. He is thriving with his new team and the big question is why? Some people believe his newly found success is a result of him pitching in the National League where there is no DH and others believe it is the work of Ray Searage.

In my opinion, both of these theories are correct and if he continues his success, the Yankees must explore the possibility of signing him. Nova is expected to be the top starting pitcher in this years free agency and considering the Yankees have already developed a relationship with Nova, he would definitely consider returning for the right contract.

It is clear the Yankees need help in their rotation and if Searage really did fix Nova, this could be the perfect fit for him and the Yankees. As I mentioned earlier, big names in the trade market such as Quintana or Sale will be available. They are intriguing names but after gaining the status of an elite farm system, Cashman may be hesitant to trade any top prospects.

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The Yankees have plenty of time to make a decision but as the offseason approaches, this is something that should be closely monitored.