Though the New York Yankees may have finally figured out a serviceable formula for their starting rotation, they made it seem a lot harder than it should’ve been. Also, it took way too long. When was the last time this team had a cast of arms opposing offenses truly feared? Not recently!
Before Gerrit Cole’s massive overpay (yes, it was an overpay — $79 million MORE than the next largest contract for a starting pitcher), when was the last time the Yankees paid a capable starter?
It was Masahiro Tanaka in 2014, and it’s not like that deal turned out overwhelmingly positively. Before that came CC Sabathia ahead of the 2009 season. This team really went a decade without paying a true ace or even another rock-solid No. 2 option. Kind of infuriating when you think about it.
The worst part is that this just seems easier for every other team. The Mets? Sure, a $130 million extension for Jacob deGrom. Red Sox? $150 million for Chris Sale post-trade. Hell, the Phillies got Zack Wheeler for $120 million. The Rays pay pennies for aces/bullpen monsters.
And now the Toronto Blue Jays entered the conversation. They bolstered their pitching staff the last few years by signing Hyun-Jin Ryu and Robbie Ray in addition to trading for Jose Berrios.
That latter move garnered some criticism because it was considered a steep price to pay for a guy with a career 4.04 ERA, but take out Berrios’ bad rookie year and he’s got a 3.74 mark from 2017-2021. That’s good! And Toronto pounced this offseason by signing the right-hander to a seven-year, $131 million contract.
The Blue Jays-Jose Berrios deal makes the Yankees look a bit incompetent.
That’s $18.7 million a year for a potential co-ace and definitive No. 2 starter. OK, he’s a No. 3 AT WORST. But as you know, with each passing season, that AAV is going to look more and more like a bargain. That’s how it works when dishing out long-term deals. You get the value over time.
And this takes Berrios through his age-34 season, which is almost as favorable as it gets. You’re not paying for much regression (if any at all) with this contract.
Yet here are the Yankees, who are the premier free-agent destination and somehow can’t attract these type of players or pepper some of these shrewd contracts onto their payroll. We’ll admit, the deal for Luis Severino was an attempt at that, but it hasn’t worked out (and it wasn’t exactly long term).
The Yankees have had trouble developing arms within the organization, trading for them (re: Lance Lynn, Sonny Gray, Michael Pineda, etc.), and signing them. It shouldn’t be this difficult for a GM of Brian Cashman’s stature and an organization as renowned as the Yankees.
There’s still time to turn it around this offseason, and they hopefully will. But the Berrios deal with the Blue Jays is a reminder of how bad the Yankees have been with acquiring and developing starting pitching. And it doesn’t help that it’s yet another division rival rubbing it in their face.