The Yankees could have the best rotation in baseball with one free-agent signing

gerrit cole, yankees
Aug 26, 2022; Oakland, California, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Gerrit Cole (45) walks to the dugout after the first inning against the Oakland Athletics at RingCentral Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Luckily for the New York Yankees, they don’t have much turnover occurring in the starting rotation this off-season. The only player they’re losing is Jameson Taillon, a replaceable No. 5 option who is garnering interest from other teams.

General manager Brian Cashman has a ripe opportunity to build one of the best rotations in baseball, and as the Yankees know, you can never have enough pitching. The starters performed well during the playoffs, but the bullpen fell apart due to injury. However, it is much easier to find quality bullpen arms than top-shelf starters.

With that being said, the FA market is littered with tier-1 pitchers this off-season, and if the Yankees can find the right option for higher money and fewer years, they could build a dominant, World Series-caliber rotation moving forward.

The Yankees could build the best rotation in baseball:

1.) Gerrit Cole

Gerrit Cole maintained his ace status after a quality postseason. He featured his highest ERA since 2017 with Pittsburgh, landing at 3.50 with a 2.78 xFIP and 11.53 strikeouts per nine over 200.2 innings.

Cole continues to lead with his velocity but gave up far too many homers. It seems as if his confidence was rattled at some points in the year, but he still showed up when it mattered most, tallying a 2.95 ERA in the playoffs.

2.) Justin Verlander

The Yankees need to make another run at Justin Verlander, which would give them the best 1–2 punch in baseball at the top of the rotation.

At 39 years old, Verlander just won the Cy Young award, hosting a 1.75 ERA at 9.51 strikeouts per nine over 175 innings. Coming off Tommy John surgery and pitching just six innings between 2020–21, Justin proved he has plenty of gas left in the tank, and Cashman has displayed an interest in Verlander before.

Reports have indicated that Verlander is looking for a deal similar to Max Scherzer‘s, which would pay him over $40 million for three years. At his age, it is unlikely he reaches that type of number, but with Josh Donaldson‘s contract coming off the books next season, the Yankees have a perfect opportunity to situate their rotation and not look back. Adding Verlander would give them a legitimate intimidation factor. Keeping him away from the Astros doesn’t hurt, either.

3.) Nestor Cortes

The emergence of Nestor Cortes has been something of folklore for Yankee fans. At 27 years old, Cortes posted a 2.44 ERA over 158.1 innings, making his first All-Star appearance. Unfortunately, this was the most he pitched in his entire career. He simply ran out of gas in the playoffs, seeing a massive velocity drop. Overall, though, his fastball averaged 91.7 mph, nearly 1 mph more than his career average, showing his growth.

At this point in time, it seems the Yankees are extremely confident that Cortes will be an impact player moving forward, and given they have control over him until 2026, they couldn’t be happier with the situation.

4.) Luis Severino

The Bombers have Luis Severino on a one-year, $15 million deal for the 2023 season. Kudos to the Yankees for sticking by him despite all the injury woes. Over 102 innings, Sevy posted a 3.18 ERA, 9.88 strikeouts per nine, and an 80% left-on-base rate. He was beaten up a bit in the postseason, but this is the most innings he’s pitched since 2018, so it is not surprising that he ran out of gas and struggled toward the end.

Severino and Frankie Montas have one year left until they hit free agency, so the Yankees do need to have insurance policies in place, which is where Verlander comes in.

5.) Frankie Montas

Frankie Montas was an ace for the Oakland Athletics last season, but for the Yankees, he’s the No. 5 pitcher in this sequence. He hosted a 4.05 ERA with 8.85 strikeouts per nine across 144.1 innings in 2022. His numbers with Oakland were far better than with the Bombers, where he recorded a 6.35 ERA over 39.2 innings.

Seemingly, he was dealing with a shoulder injury that was limiting his production, but the Yankees still view him as an essential piece moving forward and one that will make a tremendous impact next year.