The Yankees’ 2024 starting rotation could be insane with a bit of luck

mlb: new york yankees at tampa bay rays, carlos rodon
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees are clearly looking to be aggressive this off-season and turn over some major weaknesses over the next few months. Their ongoing negotiations with the San Diego Padres for Juan Soto make it clear that they have big goals, and adding more offensive firepower is undoubtedly one of them.

However, the Yankees got disappointing production from their starting rotation in 2023, aside from Gerrit Cole, who won the American League Cy Young award. General manager Brian Cashman has an opportunity to go out and sign one of the best free agents on the market, all while retaining a key arm with substantial upside.

In this scenario, we will assume the Yankees trade Clarke Schmidt for Soto, so let’s take a look at what the rotation may look like with a bit of luck.

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The Yankees’ 2024 Rotation Could Be Insane

1.) Gerrit Cole

Cole retains his “ace” moniker coming off of Cy Young season at 33 years old. He pitched 209 innings, the second-highest total in his career, hosting a 2.63 ERA, 3.16 FIP, including 9.56 strikeouts per nine, an 80.4% left-on-base rate, and a 39.6% ground ball rate. He posted his lowest HR/FB ratio at 9.4% since 2016 with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

There is no question that Cole remains one of the best pitchers in baseball and will likely run back another phenomenal campaign in 2024.

MLB: New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays
Aug 25, 2023; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Gerrit Cole (45) gives a thumbs up against the Tampa Bay Rays at the end of the first inning at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

2.) Carlos Rodon

Here’s where the Yankees need the luck to kick in. Carlos Rodon is capable of being one of the top left-handed pitchers in baseball, but injuries took their toll in 2023.

A left forearm strain, a chronic back injury, and a hamstring injury all derailed his season. However, he’s only 30 years old and entering year two of a six-year, $162 million deal he signed last off-season. The Yankees need him to step up after finishing with a 6.85 ERA across 64.1 innings.

Just one year prior with the San Francisco Giants, Rodon pitched a career-high 178 innings, logging a 2.88 ERA, 12 strikeouts per nine, and a 75.1% left-on-base rate. If he even comes close to those numbers, the Yankees will get extraordinary value, and it will create a nasty one-two punch at the top of the rotation.

3.) Yoshinobu Yamamoto

It is no secret that the Yankees are incredibly high and interested in Japanese-born starter Yoshinobu Yamamoto. In fact, they are currently the favorites to land the top free-agent pitcher.

Yamamoto has pitched three consecutive years with over 170 innings across all competitions. Specifically, in the JPPL this past campaign, the 25-year-old pitched 164 innings, recording a lights-out 1.21 ERA, 22 earned runs allowed, and 169 strikeouts collected.

Yamamoto is expected to land a deal in the $200 million range across multiple seasons, but the Yankees see him as their next international investment, and the results could be fruitful. He has the potential to develop into a legitimate ace down the road, which would be a great insurance policy for Cole as he heads toward his mid-30s.

4.) Michael King

If the Yankees have Michael King slotted into their number four spot in the rotation, they will undoubtedly have one of the best units on paper in baseball next year.

The 28-year-old has ace-level potential, as he displayed toward the end of the regular season in 2023. He finished the campaign pitching a career-high 104.2 innings, enjoying a 2.75 ERA, 10.92 strikeouts per nine, an 81.1% left-on-base rate, and 42.8% ground ball rate. In the final 35.2 innings of the season, in which he was featured as a starter, King recorded a 2.02 ERA and gave up just eight earned runs, striking out 45 batters.

Having King as a middle-of-the-rotation arm would be a luxury since his upside is far better than that. That’s part of the reason the Yankees are trying to hold him out of Juan Soto talks, despite the fact that the Padres obviously desire his level of talent.

5.) Frankie Montas

Reports have been consistent regarding Frankie Montas and the Yankees finding common ground on a one-year deal for the 2024 season.

Montas, at 30 years old, pitched just 1.1 innings this past year, rehabilitating from shoulder surgery. However, he’s only one year removed from tossing 144.1 innings, posting a 4.05 ERA and 3.18 ERA with Oakland, specifically over 104.2 innings before being traded.

Montas has the quality to be a top-flight starter, and having him as the last arm in the rotation would be incredible. Given Luis Severino just signed a one-year, $13 million deal, Montas may get a contract in that range, but virtually missing the entire 2023 season suggests he may get a bit less. The Yankees can easily capitalize on that low-cost, high-reward investment.

6.) Nestor Cortes

Coming off a tough season marred by rotator cuff injuries, Nestor Cortes should be considered a back-end rotation pitcher for the time being. His one excellent season stands out and showcases his potential, but until he can regain some of that consistency and health, the Yankees need to consider him as an addition and not a key piece. Just as Montas, Cortes has a chance to be an impact player, but the Yankees can’t bet on it.