The New York Yankees‘ starting rotation needs significant reinforcement this off-season after missing out on Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Yamamoto ended up signing a 12-year, $325 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, leaving the Yankees with plenty of money to spend but a rather thin market to navigate.
We’ve discussed options like Jordan Montgomery extensively; the Yankees could look to the trade market to help support the unit. Shane Bieber stands out as an obvious candidate since he won’t cost a significant amount and he’s on an expiring contract, meaning the Cleveland Guardians will have to settle if they don’t plan on paying him long-term.
However, the Yankees do have a few internal pieces that need to step up in the meantime, notably Clarke Schmidt, who managed to sidestep being moved to the San Diego Padres in the Juan Soto sweepstakes. The Padres demanded Michael King, and the Yankees weren’t going to let his service get in the way of acquiring a Hall of Fame of bat at 25 years old.
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The Yankees Will Look to Clarke Schmidt to Step Up
Nonetheless, Schmidt has the talent to become a quality piece in the starting rotation long-term. The 27-year-old is under control until 2028, so the Yankees have plenty of time to utilize his services at a cost-efficient price point. He has a projected $3 million salary in arbitration this upcoming season.
Last season, Schmidt enjoyed his first campaign as a regular starter, pitching a career-high 159 innings. He finished with a 4.64 ERA, 4.42 FIP, 8.43 strikeouts per nine, a 70.2% left-on-base rate, and a 43.8% ground ball rate. After recording a 3.12 ERA across 57.2 innings in 2022, he took a step in the wrong direction, but this is his first time ever pitching more than 60 innings in a given season.
It takes time for a newly integrated arm to reach its potential, so the Yankees are excited about his upside, specifically given his wide array of pitches. Schmidt utilizes a cutter, sweeper, sinker, and curveball. Unfortunately, he struggled in 2023, with his lowest batting average allowed coming from his cutter at .283. Even his sweeper generated a .276 average, well above his .183 BA in 2022.
Whether it be a lack of confidence or simply working through stamina related issues, Schmidt learned a few valuable lessons in a down year for the entire team. The hope is that he can eliminate some of those weaknesses and turn them into strengths, which would promote his candidacy as a middle-of-the-rotation arm.
Currently, he’s likely slotted in as the number four behind Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodon, and Nestor Cortes. Clearly, the Yankees need more support in the rotation and general manager Brian Cashman will likely ramp up the church after the holidays.