While I’m not entirely sure if it’s sheer boredom from the slow offseason or just plain nitpicking, Yankees fans continue to cry out for the club to acquire another starting pitcher.
This offseason, I’ve made a concerted effort to interact with as many Yankees fans as humanly possibly via Twitter. And while I’ve had some lively conversations that have often added to my articles here at Yanks Go Yard, there is one debate I continue to have.
For whatever the reason, be it the slowest race in free agency history, or the fact that the Yanks are staying under the $197 million luxury tax threshold, more than enough Bronx Bomber fans continue to @ me with “We need more pitching!”
While I certainly understand the sentiment that you can never have enough viable arms for the duration of 162 game schedule, claiming the club NEEDS another starter doesn’t hold water.
For the past month or so, the Yankees have been linked on again, off again with free agent Yu Darvish. Aside from his Postseason meltdown, which undoubtedly cost him a hefty chunk of change, Darvish would be a nice addition to almost any team.
However, without any accurate idea of the total salary he’ll command, is a 31-year-old pitcher, just two season’s removed from Tommy John surgery, a better option than what the Yanks are currently set to deploy in 2018?
Though I’m traditionally reserved in disagreeing with professional ballplayers, especially one that just finished third for the AL Cy Young Award, Luis Severino yearning for another capable shooter doesn’t make sense.
In regards to Darvish, Severino told Pete Caldera of NorthJersey.com:
"“I wish. We need somebody like that,’’ Severino said, speaking by phone on Thursday from his home in the Dominican Republic.“Yu Darvish is a great pitcher,’’ and Severino is all-in for anything that could make the Yanks one win better than 2017, which ended a victory shy of an AL pennant."
However, on Sunday, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe released an article in which he spoke to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman. In the piece, Cashman admits that his club would have to shed a significant chunk of salary (Jacoby Ellsbury anyone?) to be in the running for Darvish.
"“I’m very happy with our rotation right now and I don’t think we need to do something unless it makes sense for us.”"
At this current juncture, it appears that the most aggressive clubs vying for the four-time All-Star are the Brewers, Twins and Cubs.
Now back to what the Yanks already have in-house.
Aside from a few high-strikeout performances in the latter parts of 2017, Masahiro Tanaka was mediocre-at-best during the regular season. But then the Postseason rolled around, and Tanaka reverted back to his staff ace self.
Allowing just two runs across 20 innings of playoff baseball, including a pair of seven-inning shutouts, I’m inclined to believe this is the Tanaka we’ll see in ’18.
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After opting into the final three years of his contract, Tanaka knows he has a lot to prove, and the Yanks will rely heavily on him and his sinking fastball to form a lethal 1-2 combination with Severino.
Casting judgment on Sonny Gray until he’s pitched an entire season in pinstripes would be a mistake. No, his arrival to the Bronx didn’t have the same impact as say, Justin Verlander to Houston, but the Bombers were anything but when Gray took the mound. The 4.1 run support, ranked Gray 11th best on the team.
Throw in Giancarlo Stanton and lessen the number of injuries sustained by everyday players and well, I’d be shocked if Gray didn’t win at least 15 games in ’18.
As for the venerable CC Sabathia, who was 10-1 following a Yanks defeat in ’17, CC will be hard-pressed to duplicate last season’s success. But even then, the former flamethrower has become a finesse pitcher capable of giving the staff a reliable go-to anchor.
After signing a one-year, $10 million deal, the only way Sabathia is coming out of the rotation is via injury or utter implosion.
Lastly, there is Jordan Montgomery, who I would suspect is the guy fans would be quick to replace if Darvish or fellow free agent Alex Cobb become a reality.
But Montgomery had an excellent rookie campaign, even statistically better than Yankee great Andy Pettitte. So why are we so quick to cast Monty either to the bullpen as a long reliever or back down to Triple-A?
Sure, the University of South Carolina product hit some bumps in ’18, but that’s to be expected.
After tossing 155.1 innings, culminating in a winning record, and the second-best OPS on the starting staff (.684), the still-maturing 25-year-old southpaw’s 3.88 ERA was 13th best in the AL among pitchers that logged over 150 innings.
Taking Montgomery out of the rotation would be a colossal mistake, potentially rattling his psyche to the point of no-return. I mean, why stunt his growth when we’ve already seen what he’s capable of?
The only way Montgomery will continue to get better is by facing big league pitching every five days.
Outside the top five, the Yankees can also use Domingo German, Adam Warren, Chad Green and Luis Cessa to open a contest or two. And this is before we were to even take a look down on the farm where guys like Chance Adams, Justus Sheffield, Domingo Acevedo and Albert Abreu are all itching for their chance.
If the offense performs the way it SHOULD, and the pitching achieves the way it’s EXPECTED, this Yankees team doesn’t need much more if anything to play deep into October.