The Yankees can’t rely on either of their two lefty starting pitchers

nestor cortes, yankees
May 24, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Nestor Cortes (65) reacts after allowing a three run home run to Baltimore Orioles second baseman Adam Frazier (not pictured) during the seventh inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees‘ commitment to their roster is unyielding, but the uncertainty surrounding their starting rotation looms large. Were the 2024 season to kick off today, the Yankees would present a starting lineup of Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodon, Nestor Cortés, Clarke Schmidt, and Michael King.

The horizon looks grim, especially with the potential exits of Luis Severino and Frankie Montas in free agency and the likelihood of Domingo German not making a return due to his placement on the restricted list for alcohol-related reasons.

The Challenge of Relying on Rodon and Cortés

The Yankees’ departure of three mainstays leaves a gap that needs filling, and while there’s optimism around King’s potential for a successful transition, doubts linger. The reliability of the lefty starters, Rodon and Cortés, particularly after their injury-marred 2023 season, remains questionable.

Rodon’s performance last season wasn’t reflective of the hefty six-year, $162 million contract he bagged during the last free agency. His tally over 64.1 innings—beset with a myriad of injuries including a left forearm strain, persistent back issues, and a hamstring problem—was less than stellar: a 6.85 ERA, 5.30 xFIP, 8.95 strikeouts per nine, a 60.5% left on base rate, and 27.1% ground ball rate.

While Rodon’s history does show a challenging season in 2018 with the Chicago White Sox, his numbers that year were still noticeably better than his recent stint with the Yankees. While hopes for a 2024 resurgence remain, given his injury list, there’s an air of apprehension regarding the value his contract promises.

Cortés‘ story rings similar. Despite a stellar 2022 season that witnessed his best figures, including a 2.44 ERA, 3.63 xFIP, 9.27 strikeouts per nine, and impressive rates of 82.8% left on base, 33.5% ground ball, and 8.2% HR/FB across 158.18 innings, his recent injuries have cast doubts on his consistency. His first All-Star selection set high expectations, but the recent season’s downturn has been a bitter pill for the Yankees. If injury concerns persist for both Rodon and Cortés, the Yankees may have to look elsewhere for support.

The Yankees’ Potential Yoshinobu Yamamoto Acquisition

The search for reinforcement might lead the Yankees towards the Japanese sensation, Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Though a right-hander, Yamamoto’s status in the free-agent market is elite, with projections indicating he could clinch a deal nearing $200 million. The Yankees’ General Manager, Brian Cashman, is clearly interested. Yet, challenges abound, not least from their city rivals, the New York Mets, who are also poised to vie aggressively for Yamamoto’s signature.

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