The Yankees could go off the beaten path and trade for Pirates starter Joe Musgrove.
The Yankees’ chase for an effective mid-rotation starter is heating up…by default, since Spring Training — even if it’s ultimately delayed — is still fast approaching.
Musgrove is a tough assessment. The projections are overwhelmingly positive, and the peripherals, from hard-hit rate to control, indicate a fully-formed breakout could be coming.
His 2020 season was special, featuring a ridiculous 55 Ks in 39.2 innings pitched and a solid 3.86 ERA. But do those 39.2 innings represent a long step towards a 2021 breakout? Or were they an aberration in a low-expectation campaign without opposing, jeering fans? Is it possible Musgrove reverts to his 2019 season, featuring a 4.44 ERA in 170.1 innings (with only 157 Ks)?
That’s a viable big league pitcher who should be able to be obtained for a middling return. But the pitcher behind Musgrove, as well as the Musgrove we saw in 2020, should be able to toe the rubber in a hypothetical Game 2, featuring a varied arsenal and excellent breaker.
So, what’ll it cost the Yankees?
Well, judging by the way things went last time they tried to swipe a projectable starter from the Pirates, a bit more than the average fan would feel comfortable with.
In the Gerrit Cole deal three years ago, the Pirates opted for a package highlighted by…well, Musgrove and Colin Moran, instead of Clint Frazier/Miguel Andújar. With three years of control attached to Musgrove — though his skill level is well below that of Cole — Pittsburgh will once again be asking for the moon from their favorite team to agitate in the Bronx.
That’s the same level of control that applies to Yu Darvish, who went to San Diego this week in exchange for a cavalcade of mid-range prospects, all of them projectable teenagers. Of course, Musgrove is cheaper — he’s due only a series of arbitration raises, not the final three seasons of a big money contract.
Darvish didn’t cost anywhere close to a top-100 prospect, but a hypothetical Musgrove deal is going to inch closer to that group. Assuming the Yankees won’t offer Jasson Dominguez, Clarke Schmidt, or Deivi Garcia, they’ll have to start their package with No. 4 prospect Oswald Peraza, and will likely include rightly Luis Medina (No. 11), who’s ripping apart the Dominican Winter League at the moment. Polish it off with a third prospect like Josh Smith (No. 18) or TJ Sikkema (No. 17) and that should do it.
Or maybe the Yankees would rather add a throwback centerpiece to the conversations, and start things off with…Miguel Andújar himself? The Pirates opted out in the Cole chase; would they prefer the reclamation project version of Andújar, along with Medina and a supplementary piece?
Neither of these deals seem particularly painful for the Yankees, though Musgrove is still barely a known quantity and … well, there hasn’t been a finalized “painful” deal throughout baseball this offseason. Both packages seem par for the 2020-21 course.