The New York Yankees have lost 22 pitchers to free agency, the Rule 5 draft trades since November, giving them a large task to fill holes left by the departures.
The Yankees are looking to bounce back from an 82-80 season in 2023, where their offense was second worst in the MLB in batting average and one of the worst teams in wRC+ against righties. To address this, GM Brian Cashman acquired lefties Alex Verdugo, Trent Grisham, and superstar Juan Soto to bring the offense back to form in a lineup that could be dangerous in 2024.
To do this, Cashman traded a lot of their pitching depth, trading seven pitchers from the major and minor league systems, including a top 100 prospect in Drew Thorpe, a high upside starter in Michael King, and other pieces that saw major league innings in the Yankees 2023 bullpen. The Bombers also saw 12 pitchers depart for free agency, including left-handed reliever Wandy Peralta, trade acquisitions Frankie Montas and Lou Trivino, long-time veteran Luis Severino, and 2023 trade deadline acquisition Kenyon Middleton.
Most recently, the Yankees missed out on signing Yoshinobu Yamamoto after he signed a deal with the Dodgers for 12 years and $325 million. So, where do the Yankees go from here?
Free Agent Market
After whiffing on Yamamoto, the Yankees could pivot to targeting several pitchers on the market. Jordan Montgomery, Blake Snell, and Shota Imanaga are all possible “fallback” options if they are willing to invest capital into any high-end pitching talent.
But more likely, the moves are smaller ones than the blockbuster moves that happened in December. Yankees have reported interest in bringing back Montas on an incentive-laden deal, according to the YES Network’s Jack Curry, after rehabbing most of 2023 and making a single-game return at the very end of the season. Peralta was rumored to return with the Yankees, but the Yankees prospect swap for Victor Gonzalez could lead to Peralta joining another team.
The rest of the market is not very impressive for what the Yankees already have in their farm. Michael Lorenzen and Jake Odorizzi are both back half of the rotation options, but it seems as if Will Warren, among other prospects, may have a chance to prove themselves in the majors. The trade options are also sparse, the Yankees could include their depth at outfield in a deal for a pitcher like Shane Bieber, but the availability of Bieber is currently unclear.
Replenishing the Bullpen
The Yankees lost over half a dozen bullpen arms to trades and free agency and are looking to refuel a bullpen that has ranked second in the MLB in ERA since Matt Blake took over in 2020.
There are several new faces to the Yankee organization that were acquired in the 2023 offseason other than Gonzalez. The Yankees acquired Cody Morris from the Guardians in exchange for former top prospect Estevan Florial in a move that provides depth after an exodus of pitching depth. Additionally, four players were added with Major League service time: Yerry De Los Santos and Duane Underwood Jr. from the Pirates, Nick Burdi from the Cubs and Dennis Santana from the Mets, all of whom are currently non-roster invitees to the Yankees 2024 Spring Training, and could be depth pieces at the Major League Level.
The Yankees kept Nick Ramirez, Ian Hamilton, and Clay Holmes, all of whom had under a three ERA, and are looking for a bounce-back year from Ron Marinaccio and Tommy Kahnle, both of whom struggled in 2023.
Effross was acquired via the trade deadline in 2022 from the Cubs and had a 2.13 ERA in 12 total innings pitched with the Yankees. Effross is a crucial arm that hasn’t even hit arbitration yet and can fill one of the holes left by Trivino, King, and Vasquez. Gil ranked as high as the Yankees’ fifth-ranked prospect in 2021 and burst on the scene with 15.2 scoreless innings in his first three starts, settling down at the end of the season. But in May of 2022, it was announced Gil needed Tommy John surgery, sidelining him for the past two years. According to Yankees minor-league pitching coordinator Sam Briend in a report by The Athletic, Gil has brought his velocity back up to 94-95 MPH. He describes him as an “Aroldis Chapman coming out of the bullpen kind of feel” if he were to come out of the bullpen.
The Yankees have two likely options for the other spots in the bullpen. Matt Krook has spent a seven-year stint in the minors, finally getting called up in 2023 after an impressive 34-inning sample in Scranton, where he struck out nearly 40% of batters. The other is Yankees No. 23 prospect Yoendrys Gómez, who saw only two innings in 2023 at the major league level and is out of options that could send him back down to the minor leagues without being designated for assignment.
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Yankees’ talent in the minors
Even after dealing a top 100 prospect and losing three arms in the Rule 5 draft, the New York Yankees still have a plethora of pitching talent in the minors.
Other than Warren, the Yankees have MLB pipeline’s No. 95 overall prospect Chase Hampton, who may not see the field next year but has the potential to be a key contributor in the future. Other arms include Yankees No. 13 prospect Clayton Beeter, who was acquired in the Joey Gallo trade to the Dodgers.
Beeter could be an MLB-ready arm by 2024 and pitched 123 innings total in both Double-A and Triple-A, which could mean he could serve as a back half of the rotation arm if the Yankees can’t strike a deal with a free agent. No.28 prospect Danny Watson may not be knocking at the door over the non-roster invitees that the Yankees have with velocity struggles as a sidearm pitcher, but has had an ERA under two in both High-A and Double-A.
In terms of depth in their minor league system, the Yankees still have talent that could knock at the door in a year or two. No. 18 prospect Zach Messinger is a University of Virginia alumni with a 60-grade slider with a strikeout percentage above 25% from Low-A to Double-A.
Stanford standout and No. 19 prospect Brendan Beck is estimated to be at least a year out from being near major league ready, but had a 1.74 ERA in High-A and is right behind Hampton on Fangraph’s organizational depth chart. Other players that the Yankees have are left-handers Brock Selvidge (No. 11 prospect), Henry Lalane (No. 12 prospect), Kyle Carr (No. 13 prospect), and Edgar Barclay (unranked), along with Alex Mauricio (unranked), Luis Velasquez (unranked) and Cade Smith (No. 30 prospect).