It's the deep dark offseason with less than two months remaining until Opening Day, which means the content mill will be doing all it can to keep fans engaged/entertained/talking. And when MLB Network dropped its list of top-10 starting pitchers, that's exactly what happened.
For New York Yankees fans, it was bittersweet. On the positive side, there was no better way for the Carlos Rodón signing to be advertised. The Bombers signed the fiery left-hander to a six-year, $162 million contract this offseason to supplement the returns of Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo.
But on the other end of the spectrum, it was bad PR for the Yankees' $324 million man Gerrit Cole, who's now been nowhere to be found on two high-profile offseason lists (the other being a fan vote for the top starting pitchers in MLB). Does it necessary matter? Not really, but it doesn't at all favor the Yankees in the discourse.
Rodón, on MLB Network's top 10, came in at No. 3, which, for as much as we love it, is surprising. Yes, he's been one of the best pitchers over the last two seasons (he earned two All-Star nods and grabbed plenty of Cy Young votes), but the overall track record isn't technically there compared to other more established arms.
Then again, this was based on "the now," so Rodón's 2.88 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 237 strikeouts and league-leading 2.25 FIP across 31 starts (178 innings) warrants serious recognition.
MLB Network's starting pitcher rankings are bittersweet for Yankees
Objectively, though, perhaps Julio Urías and Sandy Alcantara deserved to be higher? There's an argument for Shohei Ohtani, too. Not complaining, though!
As for Cole ... his exclusion is certainly warranted. He finished 2022 with a 3.50 ERA and 3.47 FIP, which isn't necessarily "good" for an ace making $36 million per year. He gave up the most home runs in the AL (33), too. His league-leading 257 strikeouts was a positive, as were his postseason performances, which renewed hope after his last two rollercoaster regular seasons.
In this day and age, aces carry a lot of pressure to deliver upon expectations. Someone like Cole probably needs to maintain a sub-3.00 ERA, given his pedigree and the amount of money he's making.
At the very least, he's arguably the most durable arm in MLB and now he has some motivation for 2023. And some help from MLB's No. 3-ranked starter right behind him.
NEXT STORY: Yankees Opening Day Roster Projection 1.0