Yankees could pivot to cost-effective trade target to reinforce starting rotation

mlb: milwaukee brewers at cleveland guardians, shane bieber, yankees
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The Yankees have been engaged with a number of teams to acquire starting pitching reinforcements. The latest reports indicate that general manager Brian Cashman was eyeing the acquisition of Corbin Burnes from the Milwaukee Brewers, but his refusal to include Spencer Jones in a deal led to Burns being moved to the Baltimore Orioles.

Pursuit of Pitching Talent

Burnes would’ve been a tremendous addition to the Yankees rotation, which is hoping for several players to bounce back from injury. They are expected to continue pursuing the likes of Dylan Cease of the Chicago White Sox, but they could pivot to a more cost-effective option from the Cleveland Guardians.

This off-season, former Cy Young award-winning pitcher Shane Bieber has been working diligently to regain some of his lost quality. He had dealt with an injury in 2021 and again this past season, pitching just 128 innings and allowing a 3.80 ERA. His strikeouts nose-dived to 7.52 per 9, posting a 74.3% left-on-base rate and 47.2% ground ball rate.

Shane Bieber’s Offseason Progress

Bieber has never walked many batters, but it was evident his stuff had fallen off a bit. He averaged 91.6 mph on his fastball last year, but he’s averaging 93.2 mph during off-season work, having attended Drive Line Baseball to turn back the clock.

In fact, his curveball is putting up similar numbers to his 2020 season when it averaged 83.6 mph and 14 inches of vertical break. Now, he’s averaging 83.7 mph and the same break, noting a small uptick in velocity. This is great news, considering Bieber not only lost velocity on his fastball but saw his curveball efficiency drop off. In fact, opposing hitters hit .231 against his curveball last season compared to .191 during the 2022 season when he pitched 200 innings.

With Bieber seemingly turning back the clock and adding velocity to his pitches, the Yankees may be intrigued and willing to acquire him from Cleveland if they are in the market to sell.

Yankees’ Strategy and Potential Moves

Bieber is in the final year of arbitration before he hits free agency, having already settled at $13.1 million for the 2024 season. This would be another one-and-done player for the Bombers, but they may only have to give up Everson Pereira to acquire Bieber rather than Jones in a potential Cease deal.

Again, the Yankees would be banking on Shane to recover his stuff and offer them a top-flight starter, and that is already considering they are betting on Carlos Rodon and Nestor Cortes to bounce back. It may be too much of a risk, and Cashman may be more attracted to arms with proof of durability and quality. That is partially why they can’t close the door on Blake Snell just yet, who pitched 180 innings last season, but his price tag at $270 million over nine years is absurd.

However, the Yanks may decide to sit pretty and remain patient. If they wait until the trade deadline over the summer, the Guardians may be out of playoff contention or headed in that direction, which would open the door for a Bieber acquisition, given he remains healthy, at a much cheaper price point. The longer a team with an expiring contract waits to trade a player, the less value they ultimately have.

Whereas the Yankees may be able to send Pereira and some lesser talent for now, Cleveland may only get pennies on the dollar in a few months, and Cashman can guarantee health at the time of a prospective deal. That may be the most important variable in the equation since the Yankees have routinely struggled with injury, and adding a player now that has a history of inconsistency in that department may be too risky.