Yankees banking on 2 big-time pitchers to bounce back in 2024

mlb: arizona diamondbacks at new york yankees, carlos rodon
John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees will have one of the best starting rotations in baseball if they manage to add Yoshinobu Yamamoto in free agency. It will cost them a pretty penny, given reports have indicated Yamamoto could earn $250 million on the open market, if not more. However, the Yankees have two players currently on the roster ready to bounce back after a disappointing 2023 season.

Notably, 31-year-old lefty starter Carlos Rodon is coming off his worst season in the MLB. He pitched just 64.1 innings, hosting a 6.85 ERA, a 5.79 FIP, including 8.95 strikeouts per nine, a career-low 60.5% left-on-base rate, and a 27.1% ground ball rate. His home runs per nine elevated to 2.10, another career high. Ultimately, several injuries derailed his season, and his confidence dwindled as frustration grew.

The Yankees Need Carlos Rodon to Carry His Weight

If the Yankees don’t get Rodon back to full strength, he may represent another $162 million down the drain after landing him on a six-year deal. Rodon is coming off two dominant seasons, specifically a career-best 178 innings pitched with the San Francisco Giants in 2022. His ERA sat at 2.88, strikeouts per nine increased to 12, and featured a 75.1% left-on-base rate and 34.1% ground ball rate.

Getting the 2022 version of Rodon would bolster the rotation significantly, especially if they land Yamamoto. They would have one of the most lethal top-three starters in baseball, but it is a big what-if. The Yankees would be relying on an injury-prone pitcher to get back to full strength and a player who’s never pitched an inning in the MLB to instantly become an ace-level arm. Most believe that Yoshinobu will quickly adapt, given he’s 25 years old and dominated in the JPPL.

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Another Lefty Arm Who Can Make an Impact

However, another lefty starter who is looking to make a comeback is Nestor Cortes. Cortes has two years left of arbitration before he hits free agency in 2026.

At an affordable cost, Cortes has the capacity to be a fantastic middle-of-the-rotation starter. The 28-year-old suffered through a rotator cuff strain in 2023, limiting him to just 63.1 innings pitched and a 4.97 ERA. He hopes to turn back the clock and replicate his All-Star performance in 2022 when he posted a 2.44 ERA across 158.1 innings.

Cortes has nasty stuff, and when his confidence is turned all the way up, he’s one of the best pitchers on the team. However, nobody can push past a rotator cuff injury to your throwing arm, so it is no surprise that Cortes struggled last year. The Yankees are still confident he will provide substantial value, but staying healthy is the name of the game for both Rodon and Cortes — their bill of health will ultimately define their 2024 season.