Yankees: Possible free agent pitchers who could fix the starting rotation
After a 100 win regular season and a failed playoff run, the Yankees enter the offseason with a powerful young lineup, a very strong bullpen and a rotation held together by a few threads. Free agency is loaded with big-time offensive players but the focus for the Yanks this winter should be on restructuring and upgrading the starting rotation.
With huge names like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper along with a handful of other All-Star hitters, entering free agency, many teams will be salivating just thinking about getting their hands on some of these guys. But the Yankees eyes should be elsewhere looking at the top starting pitchers on the market.
The good news is the Yankees have multiple options to choose from to really improve the rotation that failed them in the ALDS against the Red Sox. D’Backs’s ace Patrick Corbin tops the list, but there are several other quality arms including Dallas Keuchel, J.A. Happ, Nathan Eovaldi, and Charlie Morton.
Patrick Corbin looks to be the strongest option for any team in need of a top starter and makes the most sense for the Yankees. At 29 years old, Corbin has two All-Star seasons under his belt, the latest coming last season with 246 strikeouts in 200 IP and a 3.15 ERA. It was a very strong season for the New York native, but Corbin is a fly ball pitcher and he’ll be expected to demand a fairly large contract since this is the first time he’ll enter free agency.
The Yanks could also look into resigning the left-hander J.A. Happ, who had an excellent run after being traded to New York before the trade deadline. Happ posted a 2.69 ERA in just over 63 innings with the Yankees and had a 4.18 ERA with the Blue Jays earlier in the year over 114 innings.
The main concern with Happ is his age, having just turned 36 this past October but yet it doesn’t look like all his better days are behind him. Happ has actually pitched better in the latter half of his career and his age could be an indicator of a cheaper and shorter contract than the other top free agent arms.
Two other lefties on this shortlist include Dallas Keuchel and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Both are highly thought of and could each help improve the Yanks’ rotation. Keuchel, like Corbin, is a top arm who could take on the second or third spot in the Yankees rotation behind Luis Severino. The former Cy Young Award winner has established himself as one of the better finesse pitchers in the game with his ability to throw strikes and induce soft contact. Keuchel’s career ground ball rate right around 60%, could be perfect for Yankee Stadium.
As for Ryu, the big left-hander from South Korea has been consistently solid with Dodgers since coming to the states, but he’s been very injury prone. This past season he only pitched 82 and one-third innings and 19.1 more in October. However, 2018 was his best season. Ryu averaged over a strikeout per inning for the first time in his career and 1.97 ERA in 15 games started. Ryu will be 32 by the start of the 2019 season, and shouldn’t bet the cheapest of the three left-handers we’ve named so far.
Charlie Morton and Nate Eovaldi are two other free agents who the Yanks could have interest in for the right price. Although Morton’s career numbers aren’t too impressive, he’s had back to back seasons with ERAs under 4.00 and at least 10 K/9. The 35-year-old has become a power pitcher since moving to Houston and turned around what was an otherwise mediocre career to become a key piece of the Astros championship team in 2017.
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Eovaldi is the youngest free agent option on this shortlist. Nasty Nate will be 29 by next season and could return to pinstripes if the Yanks are willing to pay him big dollars. The Texas native found great success with the Red Sox becoming a postseason hero after being traded from the Rays just before the trade deadline.
In his contract year Eovaldi really elevated his game to a level he never has and the entire baseball world has taken notice. Especially his World Series Game 3 performance when he put the Red Sox on his back for six innings, after pitching an inning in each prior game. Eovaldi does have health concerns given he’s undergone already Tommy John surgeries, but he’s definitely worth considering.
Each and every one of these starters could provide the Yankees with a stronger rotation but some are more reliant than others and obviously more costly. With the competitive state of the MLB and the rival Red Sox coming off another championship, I would expect the Bombers to pursue an Ace-type arm.
That could come in the form of a trade but don’t take that as brushing away the abilities of Keuchel, Corbin and company.
Also keep in mind that one of the best pitchers in MLB history, Clayton Kershaw, has an opt-out option in his contract following the World Series. Asked about the issue, Kershaw stated that “he [has] not made a decision” regarding his potential free agency.