The Yankees are praying they didn’t just waste $162 million

mlb: game two-new york yankees at boston red sox, carlos rodon
Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees are a team that simply refuses to hit the pause button, especially with a payroll upward of $270 million. General Manager Brian Cashman’s agenda for the upcoming season is abundantly clear: rebuild the roster to amp up their playoff potential in 2024. A huge part of that mission is extracting every ounce of value from their whopping $162 million investment in pitching during the last off-season.

Carlos Rodon’s Down Year With the Yankees

Carlos Rodon, the 30-year-old starting pitcher, hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations this year, particularly after his scintillating runs with the Chicago White Sox and the San Francisco Giants. Over 51.1 innings this season, he’s tallied a 6.14 ERA, a 5.59 xFIP, 8.77 strikeouts per nine innings, a 71.4% left-on-base rate, and a mere 26% ground ball rate. To put this in context, he pitched 132.2 innings in 2021 and a career-high 178 innings with the Giants just last year.

A Stellar Rotation That Never Was

The Yankees’ starting rotation was supposed to be one of the best in baseball, at least on paper. However, reality begged to differ. Rodon battled injuries, Nestor Cortés is currently out with a rotator cuff issue, Luis Severino has utterly disintegrated, and Domingo German landed on the restricted list for alcohol abuse issues.

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Hope on the Horizon: A Nod to Yoshinobu Yamamoto?

The Yankees might have found themselves at an unfortunate crossroads, but opportunities for redemption beckon. Cashman’s recent standing ovation for Japanese sensation Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who recently threw a no-hitter, has fueled speculation. Yamamoto might just be in the Bombers’ sights if they’re willing to open their wallets, which they did to the tune of $162 million for Rodon just last year.

Rodon’s Injury Woes and Comeback Hopes

Rodon’s diminished performance isn’t a question of lost skill but rather the impact of sustained injuries. He started the season with a left forearm strain and was later diagnosed with a chronic back condition. More recently, he returned from a hamstring injury but showed glimpses of his old self.

Over his last five appearances, he’s had just one outing where he conceded more than two runs. Excluding that single blip, he’s allowed only five earned runs across his last 21.1 innings—a commendable stat by any measure. His only disappointing performance was against the Detroit Tigers, where he yielded seven earned runs in 3.2 innings.

Building Momentum for 2024

For Rodon, the focus now shifts to accumulating innings to ease his spring training ramp-up. Given that the Yankees might rope in Yamamoto to build a potent three-man rotation, Rodon has the chance for a big-time comeback.

Other Potential Rotational Pieces

Clarke Schmidt and Nestor Cortés are also set to make returns from their respective injuries. The Yankees could look to re-sign either Severino or Frankie Montas on budget-friendly contracts due to their recent inconsistent performances or sparse playtime.

One thing is certain: expect new faces in the 2024 rotation. This is an essential shake-up, especially considering the Yankees’ problematic reliance on injury-prone talent.