The Yankees made a mistake not trading for a starting pitcher

It is December 2017. The Yankees just landed the best bat on the market, and the fan base was in an uproar, because the evil empire was back. With very little time to breathe and recollect, the Yankees were seemingly on the verge of acquiring Gerrit Cole from the Pirates and improve their already solid rotation. Instead, rumors swirled for what seemed liked months, and Cole eventually saw himself joining the World Series Champion Astros and has been phenomenal for them. There were also rumors that the Yankees had interest in other pitchers on the trade market, such as, Arizona’s Patrick Corbin, but no deal was made, and Corbin pitched a one-hit shutout on Tuesday night for the Diamondbacks.
Photo Credit: AP

While it is extremely early in the season, it is still a fair point to say that the starting rotation as a collective has been a weakness for the team, and that the Yankees could be seeing the early consequences of not going out and trading for a pitcher in the offseason. Displayed below, is a table of the early season statistics (as of 4/18/2018) of the two most sought after pitching targets from this past offseason, Patrick Corbin and Gerrit Cole, in comparison to the Yankees’ rotation.

Patrick Corbin*
1.65 ERA
27.1 IP
37 K
0.695 WHIP
1.5 WAR
Gerrit Cole*
1.29 ERA
21 IP
36 K
0.667 WHIP
0.8 WAR
Luis Severino
2.63 ERA
24 IP
28 K
0.958 WHIP
0.9 WAR
CC Sabathia
4.00 ERA
9 IP
7 K
1.222 WHIP
0.0 WAR
Sonny Gray
6.92 ERA
13 IP
15 K
1.923 WHIP
-0.2 WAR
Masahiro Tanaka
6.45 ERA
22.1 IP
23 K
1.254 WHIP
-0.3 WAR
Jordan Montgomery
4.70 ERA
15.1 IP
12 K
1.500 WHIP
0.1 WAR

* indicates the pitcher was a trade target during the offseason

Outside of Luis Severino’s dazzling 2.63 ERA, the Yankees rotation has been mediocre at best, and often horrendous. CC Sabathia has the second-best ERA at 4.00, but he has already seen himself land on the disabled list in the season’s first month. Jordan Montgomery has posted a 4.70 ERA and 1.50 WHIP, which are far worse than the numbers he posted in his rookie campaign. The Yanks’ last two starters, Masahiro Tanaka and Sonny Gray, were due for big years, after a less than memorable 2017, but have been the team’s two worst starters. Gray has been allowing baserunners to reach at an astronomically high rate as his WHIP currently sits at 1.92, and his ERA of 6.92 could actually be much worse, if he hadn’t maneuvered his way through a majority of the jams he pitched himself into. Tanaka has not been as bad as his 6.45 ERA suggests as his WHIP sits at a 1.25 and he is striking out over a hitter per inning, but the long ball is still ruining his outings as he already has allowed five of them in the young season.

In comparison, Corbin and Cole have been fantastic. Both pitchers have sub-2.00 ERA’s, high strikeout-rates, and have been very valuable to their respective ball clubs in the early going. If you combine the WAR for all of the Yankees’ starters through the season’s first 16 games, Patrick Corbin has been almost three times as more valuable than the Yankees entire rotation by himself.
Photo Credit: Draft Buddy

The Yankees’ poor rotation production through the first sixteen games has not only hurt the Yankees’ offense’s chances of producing enough runs to compete, but it has also forced Aaron Boone to go to his bullpen extremely often and for a lot of innings early in the season. It’s no secret the bullpen has been subpar through the season’s first sixteen games, but it doesn’t help when they are constantly pitching from behind and having to be called upon so often.

While no one could have confidentially predicted that Gray and Tanaka would be two of the worst starters statistically in the MLB in April and that CC Sabathia would land on the disabled list, the Yankees should have made the effort over the offseason to ensure that the rotation would be able to stay intact and perform, in case the worst-case scenario happened. Now, the Yankees are seeing Gerrit Cole dominate in the American League West and Patrick Corbin, who was reportedly shopped by the Diamondbacks all offseason, absolutely dominating and showing flashes of his former All-Star self.

Will the Yankees rotation improve? Without a doubt, it will. The Yankees rotation is still one of the top rotations in the American League on paper, and it would be very shocking to see the Yankees’ starters do any worse than they are doing thus far. However, the most concerning aspect of these struggles are not the struggles themselves, but the vulnerability the rotation is illustrating it has. The Yankees rotation is showing that it has the potential to be a weakness, and when the next best guy in the depth chart is Luis Cessa, there is not much room for error for the guys who are expected to go out and compete very fifth day. While it is still only April, if the rotation does keep up its woes, expect the Yankees to be searching the market come July for a pitcher to get them over the hump.

Article by: Ryan Thoms


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