New York Yankees Analysis: Should the Yankees re-sign Tanaka or get Cory Kluber?

Tonight by 8 pm, the New York Yankees will have decided on Gary Sanchez, whether to tender him or let him loose. That is just one of the decisions the Yankees will have to make. But the big question this offseason is what the Yankees will do to shore up their sub-par pitching rotation? General manager Brian Cashman in his usual manner, has been tight-lipped about any action he might take. We do know that the Yankees have been in contact with Tanaka; how far that has gone is anyone’s guess.

With the Yankees not likely to spend big for a Trevor Bauer in a year that they will be watching every penny, might they take a chance on Cory Kluber? Kluber is a Cy Young Award pitcher; he pitched for the Cleveland Indians for nine years, racking up a 98-58 record. After being injured in 2019, he was traded to the Texas Rangers. Unfortunately for the Rangers, he ended up pitching in just one game. Though Kluber is certainly a risk given he suffered a broken forearm in 2019 and a Grade 2 shoulder tear in 2020, his ceiling is proven to be a Cy Young-caliber ace.

When comparing Masahiro Tanaka to Cory Kubler, Tanaka carries his own baggage, a partially torn UCL, that the Yankees have to worry about. He could require Tommy John surgery at any time the longer he pitches. Kluber has been cleared to have a normal pitching routine this offseason. It is questionable that he will be 100% at the beginning of the 2021 season. Assuming he will be at full strength midseason, can you imagine a one-two punch in the postseason with Cole and Kluber. That pairing could be the best one-two punch the Yankees have had since 2009.

Kluber does have ties to the New York Yankees, most notably with pitching coach Matt Blake who Kluber worked with while with the Cleveland Indians. He has also worked out in previous offseasons with Eric Cressey, New York’s Director of Player Health & Performance.

Masahiro Tanaka was never the ace the Yankees hoped he would be, and he has regressed some overtime. With Tanaka, the Yankees know what they are getting if they decide to re-sign him. They will be getting an average pitcher that can eat up some innings as far as his postseason value has been greatly reduced. In 2020 he failed miserably in his two appearances in the ALDS and ALCS, racking up an ERA in the stratosphere over 12.00.

Financially both pitchers won’t be cheap, but with Kluber only pitching in eight games in the past two seasons, the Yankee might be able to work out a deal that would be satisfactory for both parties. At the worst, he could be a bust; at best, the Cole, Kluber pairing could be the best pairing going into a postseason the Yankees have ever had.

Another power right-hander who strikes out a ton of batters would go a long way for the rotation, too. Deivi Garcia isn’t an overwhelming righty; Jordan Montgomery is a crafty lefty; Tanaka throws low-90s; and the team can’t bank on Luis Severino being his normal self next season, especially since he’s not expected back until June or July.

If the New York Yankees are willing to take the risk, Kluber could be the fix the Yankees could use. Another consideration is that the Yankees will not want to face Kluber for the Red Sox, Astros, or Tampa Bay Ray, who all will be looking for pitching, especially the Red Sox.

I would still like to see the New York Yankees sign Trevor Bauer, an immediate upgrade from Cory Kluber. But unless general manager Brian Cashman has a blockbuster in mind, the Yankees will not spend for Bauer in these uncertain times. The photo accompanying this story is not Kluber shaving his beard preparing to become a Yankee; he lost a bet and had to shave it on Twitter.