Yet another all-important trade deadline awaits New York Yankees manager Brian Cashman, who, somehow, might need to repair a rotation that was supposed to feature Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodón, Nestor Cortes, Luis Severino and Frankie Montas entering the 2023 season.
Cole still needs support. Rodón still has yet to pitch. Cortes can't shake his struggles the third time through the order. Severino's health is never guaranteed. Montas hasn't pitched all year and might only be able to get back on track for the final month.
Cashman faces the annual dilemma of wasting another one of Cole's, Aaron Judge's and Giancarlo Stanton's prime years or plundering the top end of his farm system to put this roster over the top, something that could put the Yankees' future in jeopardy.
But one thing he can't do is empty the farm for Cleveland Guardians starter Shane Bieber, who is believed to be among the big names that could be dealt at this year's trade deadline, per MLB insider Jeff Passan.
There's a lot to like about Bieber. He's an All-Star-caliber pitcher with experience as a staff ace. He's a former Cy Young winner. He has three postseason starts under his belt, so he's no stranger to the spotlight. He's under club control through 2024 and is making just $10 million in 2023. It's very easy to "link" Bieber to the Yankees.
Yankees Rumors: Shane Bieber buzz shouldn't excite NYY fans
But the right-hander is currently undergoing a transformation as a result of diminished velocity and an inability to miss bats -- trends that began last season. Zack Meisel of The Athletic detailed this in a recent profile of Bieber (subscription required), citing a shoulder injury and the new MLB rules as other pertinent factors.
Bieber was once upon a time a strikeout machine. He had strikeout rates of 30.2%, 41.1% and 33.1% from 2019-2021. Last year that number dropped to 25%. This year? 16.9%, which finds him in the 15th percentile for strikeout percentage and 31st percentile for whiff percentage.
Out of the 14 advanced metrics tracked on his Statcast page, Bieber is below-average (and well below-average) in nine of them, including eighth percentile ranks for average exit velocity, hard-hit percentage and expected batting average. You wouldn't know this looking at his 3.72 ERA and league-leading 75 innings pitched, though.
Bieber's laboring this year. He's allowed 76 hits (worst in the AL) and has faced a league-high 314 batters in his 12 starts. Though his 2.5 BB/9 aren't exactly concerning, when paired with his 9.1 H/9 it's not a good look.
Bieber would be a positive addition for the Yankees, but not in a scarce market where the Guardians are likely trying to capitalize on somebody paying a massive premium for a starting pitcher with a household name. Cashman frequently avoids these deals, and he shouldn't quit that habit now.