Yankees Offseason Trade Target: Royals Starter Yordano Ventura
Troubled but talented Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Yordano Ventura could make an interesting project for the New York Yankees coaching staff.
Because the price of starting pitching is expected to be sky-high this winter, expect New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman to look for discounts anywhere he can. One fascinating talent who could be available is a man who Deadspin writer Barry Petchesky called “baseball’s surliest little sh**,” Yordano Ventura of the Kansas City Royals.
With his teammates and coaches reportedly tired of his immaturity on and off the field, Ventura may have worn out his welcome in KC. According to several sources, including Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Royals were dangling Ventura as a potential trade chip in the lead up to the August 1st deadline.
They ultimately kept the 25-year-old, likely because of their paper-thin rotation and fading playoff aspirations, but after the club’s poor performance down the stretch, the front office may be willing to make a change.
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Ventura’s numbers have trended in the wrong direction for the second straight season since his excellent 2014 campaign where he looked like an ace in the making with a 3.20 ERA and 3.60 FIP in 183 IP, finishing sixth in the American League Rookie of the Year voting.
This year, he had a 4.45 ERA and 4.59 FIP in 186 IP, walking a career-high 3.8 BB/9. He was suspended in June for throwing at Manny Machado, and notably, none of his teammates spoke out to support him. He was much better in the second half of the season, pitching to a 3.73 ERA in his last 15 starts while seeing a slight bump in his strikeouts.
It is worth remembering that Ventura is still very young, regularly touches 100 mph with his heater, and comes with what could be a very favorable contract. He’s controlled for the next three years at just under $20 million, and his deal includes a pair of $12 million club options for 2020-2021.
That is chump change for the Yankees, but enough of a commitment that the small market Royals might be looking to dump it this offseason. Also, consider that even if Ventura doesn’t improve over his league average run prevention this season (98 ERA+), he’s probably going to be a bargain the next three years and good enough to exercise those two options.
New York showed with Aroldis Chapman last winter that they are willing to take on a potential train wreck if he is talented enough. This would also be reminiscent of the Nathan Eovaldi acquisition, another flamethrower whose results don’t match his stuff.
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While Ventura isn’t going to come cheap, he also probably wouldn’t cost New York any of their Top 100 guys. Just as a pure spitball, I’ll say something like Chad Green, Dustin Fowler, and Jordan Montgomery could get it done. The Royals probably want close to big league ready pieces.
And prospect huggers, remember that as great as Green was, he’s probably a reliever long-term, while Montgomery’s best case scenario as a starter is the “down year” Ventura just had as a league average starter.