Yankees 2024 Mock Trades: Adding a former Cy Young winning pitcher

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Cleveland Guardians
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

One of the Yankees‘ most pressing needs is starting pitching, and after striking out on Yoshinobu Yamamoto, they’ll need to find an arm who can help stabilize their rotation. The trade market is an interesting lane for the Yankees, who would have to dig deeper to part ways with players from a farm system that’s already lost arguably its top pitching prospect. It seems unlikely that the Yankees would try and make a deal that involves parting ways with multiple top-100 prospects, but they could go for a cheaper option with upside in Shane Bieber.

The 28-year-old right-hander is coming off of a season where he looked a lot more pedestrian, finishing with a 3.80 ERA across just 128 innings, but his upside and the connection to Matt Blake could present an attractive buy-low for the Yankees. With the Yankees’ surplus in MiLB talent and the Guardians’ desire to move on from the former AL Cy Young winner, how can these two teams match up in a potential deal?

Yankees Make One-For-One Swap for Shane Bieber

MLB: Cleveland Guardians at New York Yankees
May 3, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; Cleveland Guardians starting pitcher Shane Bieber (57) pitches against the New York Yankees during the first inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees need starting pitching, as even though Gerrit Cole won the AL Cy Young unanimously this past season, the rotation around him struggled mightily. You can expect Carlos Rodon and Nestor Cortes to improve next season, but the amount of innings you’ll see from both of them remains unclear. Clarke Schmidt and Will Warren both had solid workloads this past season and could make it through an entire season, but both project to be roughly league-average starters, and relying on them to be the team’s fourth and fifth starters would be a massive risk.

Shane Bieber has questions that the Yankees will have to answer as well, as he made just 21 starts this past winter due to right elbow inflammation he suffered mid-season. He’s currently training at Driveline, where he’ll look to regain some of the velocity he lost after 2020, as while he was extremely effective in 2022 on diminished fastball velocity, he could return to his Cy Young form with some of that velocity back. It also means that the biomechanical data that he’s getting at their facilities are likely improving his mechanical efficiency to prevent injuries, and any potential ailments could be identified as well.

When looking at Bieber’s arsenal, it’s hard to ignore his curveball and slider, his two best pitches for getting whiffs and chases in any situation. He relied on them a lot less this past season in comparison to 2022, and perhaps his elbow discomfort played a role in that, but if he increases their usage again, it’s likely he’ll recover some of the strikeouts he lost this past season. His four-seam fastball and cutter are average-at-best offerings that allow loud contact because they require Bieber to be in zone often, leaving him vulnerable to damage contact as neither pitch induces whiffs.

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It’s been a steady decline since 2020, and while his 2022 whiff rate and 2019 whiff rate were remarkably similar, his 2023 numbers have spun to a below-average mark. Bieber is in the upper quadrants of the strike zone less often compared to 2022, and while one would assume that hitters would have more groundballs. As a result, it went from 48.2% to 47.2%, meaning even the shift in location to generate more contact on the ground at the sacrifice of some whiffs was futile. This season seemed defined by tweaks made that either didn’t make sense on the surface or didn’t generate the outcomes Bieber hoped for.

What the Yankees need from Shane Bieber is a healthy 2024 season, and he’s shown the ability to be a workhorse in the past. In 2022, he logged 200 innings on top of two playoff starts, where he logged 13.1 innings with a 2.03 ERA and 29.4% strikeout rate. Steamer projects Bieber for 193 innings across 31 starts, and if we can get that sort of volume out of him in 2024, the Yankees will get exactly what they’re searching for on the trade market. His 3.92 projected ERA would be a solid outcome as well, giving the Yankees solid run prevention with plenty of innings to stabilize the top of their rotation.

The upside here is that you get a season closer to his 2022 campaign, where he sported a 2.88 ERA (76 ERA-) and accumulated 4.8 fWAR, which landed him some Cy Young votes that year. His Bauer Units, which help us isolate velocity as a variable for spin, have definitely dropped from his 2020 season but still remain closer to his 2019 campaign. It’s possible this is still a top 25 starter, and at just one year of control left, the price New York would have to pay doesn’t seem too crazy.

mlb: washington nationals at new york yankees, everson pereira
Aug 24, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees left fielder Everson Pereira (80) reacts after hitting a double against the Washington Nationals during the eighth inning at Yankee Stadium. The hit was the first of his major league career. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland desperately needs outfield talent, and they desperately need somebody who can hit for power as well. It’s unclear whether they would play Pereira every day, but we know the Yankees can’t. Trent Grisham will assume fourth outfielder duties with Alex Verdugo in left field, and the return of Jasson Dominguez would push Pereira further down the depth chart. Spencer Jones is another top prospect who we might even see at some point in 2024, and that complicates Pereira’s role on the team even further.

It was reported by MLBNerds that the Padres weren’t as high on Everson Pereira and as a result, he wasn’t part of the five-player package sent to San Diego. Building up Pereira’s value knowing there isn’t room on the roster for him could prove challenging, and being able to deal Pereira for a starting pitcher now would allow them to net a solid return for a player that could lose some more stock as he hides away in Triple-A. Unless the Yankees have bigger plans for Pereira, this feels like a trade that could better Pereira’s chances of being an everyday player and boost the Yankees’ rotation as well.

A final swap of Everson Pereira and Shane Bieber gives the Guardians and Yankees what they need, and even if Pereira becomes a solid MLB outfielder, it’s fine to bank on the idea that Jones and Dominguez will be better. Furthermore, the team needs a prospect who can play centerfield every day if they intend on having Juan Soto on the team long-term, and Judge is in his second year of a nine-year deal. Their corner outfield spots are essentially wrapped up for the next decade, so Pereira would be redundant anyway.

The Yankees would likely crack the top 10 for projected rotations entering 2024, and the Guardians would add a power bat to their outfield who could develop into the exact kind of hitter they’ve lacked over the last few years.