As usual, the Yankees have been connected to every pitcher under the sun as they continue their pursuit to reinforce the starting rotation. General manager manager Brian Cashman has taken a cautious approach after losing out on Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who signed a $325 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Yamamoto has the upside to be a superstar for the next decade at just 25 years old, and while the Yankees desperately wanted to sign him, they will now look to the alternatives, including Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery, on the free-agent market. Of course, the Yankees would only have to spend money to acquire either of these two players, but both are 31 years old, and regression will be part of the deal.
The free agent arms are coming off their respective best season, so the Yankees will have to pay top dollar, something that Cashman likely doesn’t want to do given their age. However, he’s already been active in the trade market trying to find a solution, but there’s one obvious answer: Shane Bieber of the Cleveland Guardians.
The Yankees Need to Land Shane Bieber
According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the Yankees have already had discussions with Cleveland about the 28-year-old former Cy Young award-winning pitcher coming off a down season in 2023. He pitched 128 innings, recording a 3.80 ERA and 3.87 FIP, including 7.52 strikeouts per nine, a 74.3% left-on-base rate, and a 47.2% ground ball rate.
It is important to note that Bieber’s velocity has dipped a bit over the past few seasons, his strikeouts have dropped, and his overall stuff has taken a step in the wrong direction. However, Bieber has been working diligently at Driveline (a training facility meant to help pitchers improve), trying to boost his stock and revive his career as an elite starter.
The reality is that the Yankees won’t have to give up a premium asset to acquire Bieber in his final year of arbitration before he hits free agency in 2025. The Yankees would only have to part ways with a prospect, Everson Pereira, and another middling player instead of sending some of their top guns in exchange for pitchers like Dylan Cease, Corbin Burnes, or Jesus Luzardo.
Bieber is only two years removed from pitching 200 innings in 2022, hosting a 2.88 ERA with a 48.2% ground ball rate and only allowing 0.81 home runs per nine.
Bieber features a four-seam fastball, cutter, slider, and curveball. His slider is his bread and butter, enjoying a .182 batting average against with a 32.7% whiff rate this past season.
Unfortunately, his fastball struggled, but his slider bailed him out of bad situations. He’s still able to put together decent numbers. Interestingly, his pitches actually saw an increase in movement last season but a slight dip in velocity. Working at Driveline should help bolster his velocity and round out his spin rates, allowing him to turn back the clock and get back to the top of his game at just 28.
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The Yankees Need to Make This Move
Based on what the Yankees would have to give up to acquire Bieber, this should be an obvious trade Cashman can make to help bolster the rotation. Even if it doesn’t pan out, Pereira is likely blocked from earning significant outfield innings, so the trade would be worthwhile.
The Yanks are still engaged with the Chicago White Sox for Cease, but their asking price is significant, and the expectation is that Cashman won’t give up more top prospects after acquiring Juan Soto from the San Diego Padres.
The next few weeks should be telling of the Yankees’ plans, but they still have plenty of time and options available before spring training kicks off in a few months.