Yankees could get substantial value from new free agent pitching addition

MLB: Spring Training-Pittsburgh Pirates at New York Yankees
Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

Many are asking why the Yankees haven’t made another play to add a free-agent pitcher over the last few weeks. With Gerrit Cole going down and both Carlos Rodon and Nestor Cortes rebounding from injury, there are some serious concerns about the longevity of the unit. Still, the Yankees are committed to some of their younger options and value grabs that could provide substantial value in 2024.

The primary reason they’ve been quiet on the market is due to the luxury tax and paying a 110% tax on any new signings.

Yankees Relying on Youth

Aside from Luis Gil and Will Warren, two pitchers expected to make the active roster if not compete for a starting spot, many are overlooking Luke Weaver, who the Yankees signed to a one-year, $2 million deal with a 2025 club option.

Weaver is 30 years old and pitched 123.2 innings last season between the Cincinnati Reds, Seattle Mariners, and Yankees. He hosted a 6.40 ERA, but he turned a new leaf when he joined the Bombers over a 13.1-inning sample, hosting a 3.38 ERA, well above his previous numbers. Weaver has had a few good seasons, notably his 2019 campaign with the Arizona Diamondbacks, when he enjoyed a 2.94 ERA over 64.1 innings.

Not many teams have given him a substantial workload since that campaign, but the Yanks view him as a potential asset, whether it be in the rotation or as a long-inning relief pitcher.

This spring, Weaver has tossed 8.2 innings, posting a 4.15 ERA, an 87% left-on-base rate, and a 50% ground ball rate. Against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday evening, Weaver tossed 3.1 innings, giving up two hits and zero earned runs, striking out two batters. Aside from one down performance against Detroit on March 7, he’s only given up one earned run over three appearances, suggesting that the Yankees may be able to find hidden value in his qualities.

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Last season, the veteran relied heavily on his four-seam fastball, change-up, cutter, curveball, and slider pitch mix. In September with the Yankees, he saw a major spike in cutter usage and was using his four-seam fastball a bit more compared to August.

Based on his advanced metrics, he introduced the cutter in July and saw a significant reliance on it as the season progressed, so the Yankees clearly saw something they liked from the right-hander.

With his fastball averaging around 94 mph, he has decent velocity, but his wide array of pitches gives him a bit more deception. His newfound cutter produces 19% more vertical movement than the average pitcher, which he can play off well with his four-seamer. That movement will be a tremendous asset against left-handed batters, and the Yankees have been introducing cutters to a number of their starters over the past two years.

Nonetheless, I wouldn’t sleep on Weaver having a sneaky good season with the Yankees at an extremely cheap price point, which is exactly the type of value pitching coach Matt Blake manages to find on a yearly basis.

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