New York Yankees: Projecting the starting pitching rotation for 2021

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 have a long winter ahead of them, as the free agency market is expected to develop very slowly after COVID-19 ran rampant throughout the MLB.

The effects of the virus on the regular season were significant, limiting teams to just 60 regular-season games and slashing revenue considerably. It seems like the Yankees won’t have the same financial flexibility this off-season, despite their desire to bring in another quality starting pitcher and retain DJ LeMahieu.

However, by letting James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and JA Happ hit the market, they will be saving approximately $52 million, which they can allocate toward a bevy of different voids. The starting pitching rotation has been inconsistent and problematic the past two seasons, and finally establishing a quality unit is essential.

Projecting the New York Yankees’ starting pitching rotation for 2021:

1.) Gerrit Cole

Of course, Gerrit Cole will be the ace and lead the rotation into the 2021 campaign. In his first year with the Yankees, he finished the 2.84 ERA, winning seven games and pitching two complete games. He struck out 94 batters and allowed 14 homers over 73 innings.

Overall, he was as good as advertised, and having some experience in pinstripes and playing in the Bronx should bode well for him next year.

2.) Luis Severino

Luis Severino has dealt with significant injuries back to back the last two seasons and is still recovering from Tommy John surgery. He’s expected to be ready for next spring training and will likely slide back into the starting rotation immediately.

Given there aren’t any setbacks in his recovery, Severino is set to be a key cog for the Yankees behind Cole. In his last full campaign, Severino was an All-Star, finishing with a 3.39 ERA and 200 strikeouts over 191 innings. He’s one of the better fastball pitchers in the league and has deadly accuracy. Hopefully, missing two seasons won’t hurt his efficiency too much, but it’s impossible to tell.

3.) Charlie Morton

With the Yankees letting three starters hit free agency, one quality arm they could target is former Rays’ pitcher Charlie Morton.

Morton was the highest-paid starter for Tampa Bay, earning $15 million last season. The Yankees might be able to secure his services for a bit less per year, and he has the consistency they’re looking for as their third pitcher in the rotation.

Prior to the 2020 season, Morton earned two consecutive All-Star appearances and was third in Cy Young voting in 2019. He finished with a 4.74 ERA this past campaign, striking out 42 batters over 38 innings. He wasn’t entirely consistent for Tampa, but it might play into the Yankees’ favor as his price tag could drop a bit, making him a suitable free agent signing.

4.) Deivi Garcia

In an unexpected turn of events, the Yankees brought up Deivi Garcia from the minors to start in six games this past season. He finished with a 4.98 ERA but showed fantastic break on his curveball and solid accuracy at times.

He was a bit inconsistent, which was to be expected but had several dominant performances. He pitched seven innings against the Toronto Blue Jays in one outing, giving up just two runs and striking out six batters. In fact, he had a sub 3.40 ERA in three of five contests.

However, his golden goose came against the New York Mets on August 30, pitching in six innings and allowing zero earned runs. He struck out six batters and allowed four hits before making his departure. This was the first start of his young career, which gave management enough confidence to continue utilizing him throughout the season. I fully anticipate him earning a starting spot in the rotation in 2021.

5.) Jordan Montgomery

The Yankees gained back Jordan Montgomery after suffering a Tommy John injury in 2019. He started 10 games for the Bombers in 2020, earning a 5.11 ERA and striking out 47 batters over 44 innings. He was a bit inconsistent, but that essential experience will hopefully roll over into positive momentum in 2021. His best outing was on July 31 against Boston, in which he posted a 1.59 ERA, allowing one ER.

Hopefully, he can be a fantastic back-end pitcher that is capable of moving up in the rotation in case of injury. I really like Montgomery as the number five pitcher here.