New York Yankees make 4 moves to bolster pitching unit

New York Yankees, Corey Kluber
Mar 28, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber (28) throws a pitch in the bottom of the third inning against the Minnesota Twin at Target Field. The Minnesota Twins defeated the Cleveland Indians 2-0. Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

It was only two weeks ago that the New York Yankees had an extremely thin starting pitching rotation and a skeptic bullpen. However, a lot can happen in that short period of time, as general manager Brian Cashman showed us. After hibernating for a majority of the hot stove months, Cashman awakened with maneuvers on his mind.

He began making cost-efficient moves to bolster the starting rotation while also staying underneath the $210 luxury tax threshold. Ownership gave him a clear message at the start of the preseason, and it was to not overspend. After watching what the Tampa Bay Rays accomplished with one of the lowest salary caps in baseball, the Yankees realized that they might be spending too much for inadequate results.

The moves they made might be a tad optimistic, based on previous injuries, but if they do pan out, the Yankees will be in fantastic shape moving forward. Here’s a review of all four-player acquisitions and trades.

New York Yankees made four moves to bolster their pitching:

1.) Signing Corey Kluber

The Yankees officially signed former Cy Young pitcher Corey Kluber to a one year, $11 million deal for the 2021 season. Kluber has only pitched 36.2 innings over the past two seasons, with his last large sample size coming in 2018.

While we can be cautiously optimistic, it has been quite some time since he has dominated at an elite level. Worst case scenario, the Yankees get a bit of action out of him and supplement with youth. The upside is intriguing, though, as he wanted to join a contender and fits perfectly behind Gerrit Cole.

2.) Trading for Jameson Taillon

Cole played a significant part in the acquisition of Pittsburgh Pirates starter Jameson Taillon. Taillon is another player coming off injury, rehabilitating from Tommy John last year.

His largest sample size also comes in 2018, pitching 191 innings and recording a 3.20 ERA. He has been working on utilizing his legs as a more predominant factor in his mechanics, which should take a lot of stress off his arm. He has undergone Tommy John twice in his career due to flawed fundamentals, but the Yankees will likely work out those issues and help him become a premium starter. They owe him just $2.25 million next season and have control until 2023 —  a high upside move that could pay off in dividends down the line.

Cashman only had to give up: RHP Miguel Yajure (Yankees’ No. 15 prospect per MLB Pipeline), RHP Roansy Contreras (No. 19), OF Canaan Smith (No. 21), SS Maikol Escotto

3.) Trading Adam Ottavino

Cashman is looking for ways to free up capital, and trading Adam Ottavino to the Boston Red Sox was one maneuver that was bound to happen. The Yankees cleared $8.15 million to reallocate toward the outfield or another bullpen arm, which directly led to the signing of Darren O’Day, previously of the Atlanta Braves and Baltimore Orioles.

Otto struggled in 2020, recording a 5.89 ERA over 18.1 innings. Having been owed $9 million for the 2021 season, the Red Sox did the Yankees a solid in a surprise move (team-wise).

4.) Signing Darren O’Day

Cashman went out and landed Darren O’Day on Wednesday morning, and while he is 38 years old, he has proven to be consistent over the course of his career. This past season with the Braves, he earned a 1.10 ERA over 16.1 innings. The last time he pitched 60+ innings, though, came in 2017, when he landed a 3.43 ERA. He is a high strikeout pitcher that hovers in the 11.00 strikeouts per nine range. His ground ball rate has fluctuated over the course of his career, but he is a player that the Yankees can count on to get them out of tough situations.

O’Day has an impressive 83.7% left on-base percentage, indicating he gets out of tough spots without giving up too many runs. Usually, that would be Ottavino’s job, but he simply couldn’t get it done in 2020, and the Yankees acquired an alternative for much cheaper.