Report: Yankees targeting two starting pitchers in free agency

Alexander Wilson
New York Yankees, Charlie Morton
ARLINGTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 23: Charlie Morton #50 of the Tampa Bay Rays reacts against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the third inning in Game Three of the 2020 MLB World Series at Globe Life Field on October 23, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The New York Yankees are headed into an interesting off-season, but it seems as if their desire for big-name free agents has not suddenly disappeared despite a significant loss in revenue this past season due to COVID-19. Signing and trading the league’s best players is always at the top of the Yankees’ mind, and of course, star shortstop Francisco Lindor will be leading the hot stove rumor mill this year.

The Cleveland Indians are keen on trading Lindor away, but it won’t come at a low price, the Yankees will have to part with significant capital to add him to the ranks. In addition, Lindor is owed $19.5 million for the 2021 campaign, and then he is set to hit free agency, so the Yankees would have to sign and extend him if he’s willing to negotiate prior to next year.

At 28 years old, Lindor is still one of the best infielders in the MLB, and it would allow them to move Gleyber Torres back over to his preferred second base position.

However, the Yankees will also be engaged in the starting pitching market, as they are set to lose Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and JA Happ. They will save approximately $52 million by letting all three walk. Early reports have indicated that the Yankees are dabbling with former Rays’ pitcher Charlie Morton and Padres starter Garrett Richards.

Morton is a solid pitcher who I’ve spoken about frequently since the Yankees were knocked out of the postseason. He finished the most recent campaign with a 4.74 regular season ERA but gets away frequently with leaving base runners in scoring position. He tends to get himself into trouble a little bit more frequently than one might hope. He has a solid ground ball right at 43.6% and prefers his fastball, sinker, and curveball.

The Yankees could likely sign Morton for a friendly deal compared to Tanaka, who was making about $23 million last season. However, at nearly 37 years old, Charlie is certainly getting up there in age, and signing him to a short-term deal would be most beneficial.

Moving onto Richards, he is a bit younger than Morton at 32 years old. He finished last season with a 4.03 ERA and had a 76.5% left on-base percentage, per Fangraphs. Richards’s career ground ball rate is 51.6%, and has a 10.8% home run to flyball ratio. He tends to rely on his fastball, sinker, and slider primarily. Is fastball hovers in the 95 mph range, which is a solid number that has decreased steadily since 2016.

Richards earned $8.5 million in 2020, so he actually might be even cheaper than Morton. These are two pitchers to keep an eye on in the coming months, as the Yankees will likely be considering them to fill essential spots in the rotation.