Ranking the Yankees’ interest in rumored available pitchers via free agency/trade

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Cleveland Guardians, yankees, mets
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

It is no secret the Yankees need to reinforce their starting rotation, and general manager Brian Cashman has been patiently scouring the market for available opportunities. Free agency is dwindling with Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery, the remaining top two arms, and the trade market represents a few risks but sizable rewards.

As usual, the Yankees have been linked to almost every possible pitching alternative after missing out on Yoshinobu Yamamoto, whether it be a high cost or a cheaper acquisition on a player coming off a down year.

Ranking the Yankees’ Interest in the Rumored Available Pitchers

1.) Shane Bieber

While we’ve been hearing the Yankees connected to more prominent names recently, including Snell and Dylan Cease, don’t forget about Shane Bieber, who seems like the most likely of the bunch to be acquired. The Guardians are in a tough spot, and Bieber is coming off of down here at 28 years old. The likelihood of staying in Cleveland beyond the 2024 season is low, suggesting they may want to leverage his value now and get a prospect in return.

The Yankees may be able to acquire Bieber at a much cheaper price point than an option like Cease or Corbin Burnes, potentially floating outfield prospect Everson Pereira in exchange. He hosted a 3.80 ERA across 128 innings this past season, dealing with some injury issues. However, he’s a former Cy young award-winning pitcher and tossed 200 innings in 2022, hosting a 2.88 ERA. The Yankees know his stuff can be elite, and he is still under 30 years old, but his velocity has dropped a bit, and there are some concerns about his durability.

If the Yankees can get him at a reasonable cost, his $12.2 million estimated salary in the final of arbitration isn’t anything to be concerned about. He’s worth the gamble since the upside is an ace pitcher that would lock down the number two or three spot in the rotation.

2.) Jordan Montgomery

Recent rumors have suggested that the Texas Rangers are leading the pack to reunite with Montgomery coming off a World Series-winning season. Montgomery had his best year in 2023, enjoying a collective 188.2 innings and a 3.20 ERA.

Montgomery is known for producing weak contact and limiting walks and home runs. He fits the bill perfectly for the Yankees, but they know exactly what type of pitcher he is and are likely concerned about a regression following a great year.

Cashman would have to bend the knee and overpay for Montgomery just to plug a rotation spot, which usually isn’t his style. However, Montgomery ranks in the number two spot simply based on the fact that he is highly durable and proved he can pitch in the postseason.

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3.) Blake Snell

Talks have heated up regarding Blake Snell, who would be a tremendous acquisition for the Yankees but ideally on a shorter-term deal. At 31 years old, Snell won the NL Cy Young award this past season, tossing 180 innings. He’s pitched a minimum of 128 innings for the past three years but only over 179 innings twice in his career.

There is a lot of risk attached to Snell, but if they can pay him a bit more yearly to build in an out in the contract, he may be a worthwhile risk. His 2.25 ERA, 11.70 strikeouts per nine, 86.7% left-on-base rate, and 44.4% ground ball rate are attractive. Being that he’s a Scott Boras client, the Yankees aren’t going to get any discounts, so again, they would have to pay big money to acquire his services.

As you can see, the top three ranked pitchers are all easier to acquire, given they either cost money or less prospect talent. The next few arms will require blockbuster deals, which Cashman may be hesitant to act on, already sending seven arms to acquire Juan Soto and Alex Verdugo.

mlb: colorado rockies at san diego padres, blake snell, yankees
Sep 19, 2023; San Diego, California, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) throws a pitch against the Colorado Rockies during the first inning at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

4.) Dylan Cease

Rumors have been heating up about Dylan Cease over the past day, with Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic indicating that Cashman has been inquiring about a potential deal.

Cease is 28 years old and has two more years left of arbitration before he becomes a free agent in 2026. Cease saw a drop in velocity this past campaign, which resulted in a 4.58 ERA. However, he is a durable and high-upside pitcher, tossing a minimum of 165 innings over the past three years. His best season came back in 2022, throwing 184 innings and recording a 2.20 ERA.

Cease has elite upside, but the Yankees would have to give away at least one top-10 prospect from their farm system, and even then, they may not have the best deal on the table. The Baltimore Orioles are also potentially intrigued, and they have the league’s best minor league system, suggesting they can easily put together a more attractive package.

5.) Jesus Luzardo

One name that has bubbled the surface recently is Jesus Luzardo, a 26-year-old pitcher with solid upside. The lefty has an upper 90s fastball and one of the best sliders in the game. The problem is, he’s pitched over 100 innings just twice in his career and has dealt with some injury issues. Acquiring Luzardo would be difficult, especially since he is coming off his best season, tossing 178.2 innings and recording a 3.58 ERA.

Luzardo is under control until 2027, so the Yankees would have to pay for that luxury. At this point, he seems a little bit less likely, given his bill of health and the risks attached. However, his upside is just as legit as anyone else and he’s a young arm with plenty of potential.

6.) Corbin Burnes

If the Yankees want Corbin Burnes, acquiring him now may be a bad mistake. Cashman would be paying a premium in a rental year, meaning the Yankees would have to make decisions on Soto, Verdugo, and Burnes heading into free agency in 2025.

However, Burnes is one of the best starters in the game at 29 years old. The Brewers’ ace enjoyed a 3.39 ERA across 193.2 innings this past season. In fact, he’s pitched three consecutive years with a minimum of 167 innings pitched. This would be a truly elite acquisition, but the Bombers are better off waiting until the trade deadline over the summer to see if the Brewers are willing to move him, if not wait until free agency next year.

Interestingly, Cashman hasn’t spent much money in free agency this off-season, likely saving his pennies to make Soto very rich on an extension. However, it is essential to note that the Yankees did offer Yamamoto $300 million, so they could be targeting a multiplayer free agency next year, which would include bringing Soto back and potentially a big arm like Burnes to help lock down the rotation alongside Gerrit Cole and Carlos Rodon.