Projecting the Yankees starting rotation, with a few remaining free agent alternatives

In what many see as one of the weakest free agent markets for starting pitching, the Yankees have plenty of questions and not too many answers regarding the 2017 starting rotation. The first three starters that are virtual locks to make the rotation out of spring training are Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, and Michael Pineda. After that, there are seemingly five guys vying for two spots. Youngsters Luis Severino, Bryan Mitchell, Luis Cessa, and Chad Green will all compete for a rotation spot with proven reliever Adam Warren being a darkhorse in the race. Joe Girardi will have plenty of options to fill the rotation, so before we look at what is left on the free agent market, let's address what the Yankees do have.
Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

1. Masahiro Tanaka
Although his health has been a question, Tanaka is expected (and paid to be) the number one starter in the Yankees rotation. Tanaka posted a record of 14-4 with a 3.07 ERA in 31 starts in 2016 - good for a seventh place finish in the Cy Young voting. Tanaka will be once again counted on as the ace in pinstripes in 2017.
Photo Credit: Nathan Dennette | AP
2. CC Sabathia
After Tanaka, the Yankees rotation is a mess. Sabathia slots in as the second best option on the roster. That doesn't look good for the Yankees despite Sabathia having a pleasantly surprising renaissance year in 2016 with a 3.91 ERA and 1.319 WHIP in spite of his 9-12 record in 30 starts last season. The 36-year-old lefty has battled injuries in recent years, leaving the former ace limping (figuratively and literally) to the finish line of his massive contract. Sabathia will likely be the next Yankees veteran on a farewell tour this season.
Photo Credit: Kathy Willens | AP
3. Michael Pineda
Once heralded as the Yankees number two starter, Pineda had an absolutely dreadful start to 2016 which played a huge role is his underwhelming numbers. In his final season before free agency, Pineda will look to improve an abysmal 6-12 record with a 4.82 ERA in 32 starts in 2016. The hard-throwing right-hander will be 28 at the start of the 2017 season. The Yankees will surely offer Pineda one final year to prove himself in pinstripes, but he could find himself in a midseason trade, or in a different uniform in 2018.
Photo Credit: AP
4. Luis Severino
One of the Yankees brightest young stars heading into 2016, Severino began in the rotation last year. That proved to be a disaster, as Severino looked consistently overwhelmed by the moment, causing management to demote the young phenom to the minor leagues. Severino returned as a member of the bullpen, where he looked like the star that Brian Cashman and the rest of the Yankees front office built him up to be. The Yankees will likely try to make Severino a starter once again, though he could be much better off in the bullpen. Depth may dictate that decision.
Photo Credit: Presswire
5. Bryan Mitchell
The 2016 season was supposed to be a year for Mitchell to take a step forward, but his season was derailed by injury. Once healthy, Mitchell started five games for the Yankees, posting a 3.24 ERA over 25 innings. Mitchell showed signs at the end of 2016 that gave the Yankees hope that Mitchell could develop into a quality starter in the MLB. Look for Mitchell to continue making strides in the right direction in 2017.
Photo Credit: Presswire
6. Luis Cessa
Another one of the Yankees young pitching prospects, Cessa showed signs of potential toward the end of 2016. The 24-year-old righty appeared in 17 games (nine starts) in 2016, pitching to a 4.35 ERA in just over 70 innings. Acquired along with Chad Green last winter from Detroit in return for Justin Wilson, the Yankees added two young potential starting pitchers. Assuming the Yankees adhere to the traditional five-man rotation, Cessa will be the odd man out, thus seeing appearances out of the bullpen. If one of the aforementioned five starters above falter, or go down with injury, expect to see Cessa step into the rotation. 
Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun
Though the Yankees have plenty of wait-and-see options for the 2017 rotation, Cashman and the Yankees front office need to target at least one veteran starter in free agency this winter.

The question is, who could they get?

As many of the starters flew off the market prior to the winter meetings, there are a few reliable options that may not be a flashy move, but would slot in well to the Yankees rotation.

1. Tyson Ross
Coming off a season where he was plagued by a nagging shoulder injury that surfaced on opening day, Ross was non-tendered by the Padres. Still only 29, Ross would be a great bounce-back project for the Yankees.
Photo Credit: Jake Roth | USA TODAY Sports
2. Jason Hammel
A forgotten piece to the champion Cubs roster, Hammel became a free agent after the club decided not to pick up an option in his contract. The Cubs actually left Hammel off the postseason roster despite his 15-win season due to injury, so that is something potential suitors should be weary of. Still, after posting solid numbers last season, the 34-year-old veteran would provide stability in the unsure Yankees pitching staff.
Photo Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki | USA TODAY Sports
3. Doug Fister
Another reliable veteran on the market is Doug Fister. The 32-year-old righty pitched 180 innings for Houston last season. His 4.64 ERA last season won't excite fans as much as the Yankees may hope, but a reliable innings-eater would be a good fit for the Yankees on a short-term deal.
Photo Credit: Kevin Jairaj | USA TODAY Sports

After an already busy offseason that has seen the Yankees sign Aroldis Chapman and Matt Holliday, Yankees fans surely hope they are not finished just yet. Cashman and the rest of the Yankees front office need to check in with any options that may improve the rotation.

Article by: Braden Carmen


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