The New York Yankees found themselves in the headlines this week. For one, they lost longtime second baseman Robinson Cano to the Seattle Mariners. However, with the Yankees being the Yankees and no strangers to digging deep for highly touted free agents, they inked centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury away from their bitter rival and World Series champion Boston Red Sox, as well as inking Carlos Beltran to a three-year deal.
It’s obvious how hungry the Yanks are. Why wouldn’t they be? This team finished at 85-77, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008. We know what happened the next season and the Yankees are determined to repeat that 2009 magic.
However, shouldn’t this team be focusing on bolstering its starting rotation? They just resigned Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year deal, and yes, Kuroda is a very good pitcher, but he turns 39 Feb. 10 and therefore can’t be part of the team’s long term plans. His age may not be a factor, however, should he continue to pitch as well as he has for New York.
The Yankees ranked 18th in team ERA with 3.94 in 2013. The highest team ERA of any playoff qualifier was the 3.82 of the Cleveland Indians, who ranked 15th. Opposing teams hit .261 off the Yanks, tied with the Los Angeles Angels. Only the Colorado Rockies, Philadelphia Phillies, Minnesota Twins and Houston Astros had higher averages against them.
New York lost Andy Pettitte to retirement and while he gave Yankee fans many memories in his career, he did have his series of outings in which he struggled in his final year. The team just lost Phil Hughes to the Twins, and if this past season’s stats are any indicator, the Yankees are lucky the two parties severed ties. Hughes had a 78 ERA+ and 1.455 WHIP, the worst in both categories of any regular starter.
This team may have a Hall of Famer in C.C. Sabathia, but Sabathia did very little to help his case in 2013. He has a career ERA+ of 121, which isn’t too bad and has 2,389 career strikeouts with an excellent shot at 3,000. While having 3,000 strikeouts isn’t necessarily an automatic milestone, per se, having that on one’s resume absolutely helps. In addition, he won a Cy Young in 2007 with the Tribe and finished in the top 5 four other times.
Yet that Sabathia was missing this past season. He gave up 112 earned runs, which led all of baseball and had a career worst 1.370 WHIP. He has shown himself to be very durable, working more than 200 innings in every season he has been with the Yankees, but he is not getting younger and it would be hard to imagine the team could afford to keep paying his big contract should he repeat 2013 or get worse in the upcoming year.
David Phelps needs to bounce back. He had a promising 2012 with a 126 ERA+ and 1.194 WHIP. However, he failed to capitalize on a promising first year by nailing an 81 ERA+ and 1.419 WHIP this past season. He’s 27 years old and does have it in him, but for a team trying to win right now, is he a good candidate for a starting spot?
In addition to Kuroda, Ivan Nova was very respectable. He has shown a lot of promise in his time in this league. After finishing 4th in AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2011, he had a sophomore slump in 2012, only to redeem himself in 2013. Still, what should give for Nova is the most innings he has ever pitched in his career was 170.1 in 2012. Nova has it in him to be promising for the Yanks for many years to come, but if he wants to live up to his full potential, he’s going to have to work a lot more innings.
According to Bleacher Report’s Ely Sussman, the team is a potential suitor for the services of Masahiro Tanaka, Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez and Bronson Arroyo. Granted, the Yankees need not sign every single one of them, but inking one or two of them can definitely go a long way for a team that wants to win, and now.
After finishing 3rd in the NL Cy Young voting in 2010, Jimenez was pedestrian in 2011 and 2012 before nicely bouncing back in 2013.
Like Kuroda, Arroyo is climbing up in the years. He’ll be 37 in February. However, he’s a workhorse who has exceeded the 200 inning mark eight times in his career. Whichever team signs the 36-year-old righty may find themselves a bargain. His WHIP in 2013 was 1.153, good enough for the lowest in his career.
Out of the aforementioned pitchers, the one the Yankees, and other clubs, should treat with the greatest caution is Garza. He found himself to be a hot commodity for the Chicago Cubs, going 6-1 with a 125 ERA+ and 1.141 WHIP for the team in 11 starts. However, when they traded him to the Texas Rangers July 22, he found himself one game under .500, going 4-5 with his new club. Garza found his ERA+ to be 94 and WHIP at 1.316. If he was looking to reward himself with a nice contract this offseason, his performance in Texas didn’t exactly help his cause, and therefore before a team goes after him, they need to be aware that they could be getting the Garza impressed nicely for the Northsiders in 71 innings this past year, or that that same Garza showed not to be as impressive once he went back to the American League.
Looking at recent reports, the Rakuten Golden Eagles seem likely to post Tanaka after multiple sources previously reporting the team really wanting the 25-year-old hurler to stay. Even if the Yankees don’t scoop him up, Jimenez and Arroyo are definitely promising prospects who can help shore up that starting rotation.
It’s no secret they badly crave that 28th World Series Championship and they could get it in 2014 if the speedy Ellsbury stays healthy and if Beltran continues to perform well. However, it’s important they go after pitching as well. Based on the rotation’s 2013 performance, there are a couple of building blocks and therefore can only go up next season.
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