The Yankees’ 2024 season could ride on the shoulders of one pitcher

MLB: New York Yankees at Pittsburgh Pirates
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With the Yankees missing out on Yoshinobu Yamamoto, they now pivot toward alternative options. Jordan Montgomery has been internally discussed as a potential free-agent fit. Still, he’s 30 years old and certainly not the step in the direction the Yankees wanted to take — getting younger and more durable.

However, Montgomery is a familiar face and is coming off of a World Series-winning season. He enjoyed a 3.20 ERA across a career-high 188.2 innings. He’s pitched a minimum of 150 innings for the past three consecutive seasons, so the Yankees can count on him as a reliable arm, but he could regress in 2024, coming off his best campaign.

With that being said, the Yankees were hoping that Yamamoto would be their No. 2, if not No. 3, arm this upcoming season with the potential for more. The team is still betting heavily on the bounce back of Carlos Rodon, who signed a six-year, $162 million deal last off-season. He pitched two consecutive years with a minimum of 132 innings before signing with the Yankees but saw his stuff fall off a cliff.

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The Yankees Need Far More From Carlos Rodon

Rodon sustained a left forearm strain during spring training, picked up a chronic back injury, and suffered a hamstring issue later on in the year. He was completely dismantled by injury, leading to a 6.85 ERA, 8.95 strikeouts per nine, a 60.5% left-on-base rate, and a 27.1% ground ball rate across 64.1 innings. The Yankees know this isn’t the player they signed to a long-term deal, so he should see a massive step in the right direction as long as he can stay healthy.

For context, he ranked in the 2nd percentile in ground ball rate and 1st percentile in barrel percentage. Opposing batters were demolishing the baseball, allowing a .294 batting against his four-seam fastball, whereas he gave up just a .213 average in 2022. Rodon is known to be a fastball/slider pitcher, but those two pitches were liabilities in 2023, which basically makes him ineffective.

Of course, the Yankees need to go out and bring in another starter, but if Rodon doesn’t bounce back, they will be facing a similar problem in 2024. Several youngsters need to step up, notably Will Warren, potentially Clayton Beeter, and even Chase Hampton. They gave away a ton of pitching talent to acquire Juan Soto and a few other arms in the Alex Verdugo deal.

The Yankees will be acquiring pitching support. It’s just a matter of time before they decide to attack the market. The free agency sweepstakes will be expensive, given Yamamoto’s deal and the lack of talent available. I wouldn’t be surprised to see general manager Brian Cashman look to the market for a solution, potentially Shane Bieber of the Cleveland Guardians, who will be a cheaper solution than Corbin Burnes or Dylan Cease.