Yankees could still add missing piece to starting rotation in free agency

MLB: San Francisco Giants at San Diego Padres, yankees, blake snell
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Having upgraded the outfield significantly, the New York Yankees‘ weakest link remains their starting rotation. It’s not for lack of talent within the unit; it is a reliance on players bouncing back from injury-riddled 2023 seasons.

If the Yankees don’t get maximum value out of some of their key starters, they will face plenty of issues with consistency. Carlos Rodon is showing solid stuff to open spring training, but he’s a long way from putting together a top performance in a regular-season game.

In addition, Nestor Cortes had issues overcoming his shoulder injury last season, heading down to Tampa in mid-December to get support from the Yankees’ training staff.

Yankees’ Rotation Dilemma

The Yankees are betting on Marcus Stroman stepping up and putting together a quality year, but he hasn’t pitched over 140 innings since 2021. Ultimately, the Yankees will need a lot of luck, but they could still add another premium-level pitcher to the equation, boosting their World Series hopes significantly.

While General Manager Brian Cashman has been scouring the trade market for opportunities, both Jordan Montgomery and Blake Snell are available in free agency. While Montgomery seems like a long shot, Snell would be the perfect addition to the rotation that would love to feature another lefty and a player coming off an NL Cy Young award-winning season.

READ MORE: Yankees must make another big move for a starter, according to this former GM

The Snell Conundrum

The problem is that Snell wants top-dollar, and the Yankees don’t want to be paying a 31-year-old pitcher $30 million per season for the next decade. Cashman would need an out in the contract after several years to make it worthwhile, especially since he already rejected Snell’s $279 million over nine seasons demand.

The Bombers offered Snell a similar contract to what they presented Rodon last off-season, which is fair for a pitcher now over 30 and having only tossed over 180 innings twice in his career. Snell threw 180 last season, hosting a 2.25 ERA, 11.70 strikeouts per nine, an 86.7% left-on-base rate, and a 44.4% ground ball rate. Who’s to say he won’t regress to the pitcher who only threw 128 innings in 2022 — the law of averages would indicate a massive drop-off compared to his 2023 numbers.

There are longevity concerns and several red flags when it comes to extending Snell on a long-term deal, and Cashman isn’t trying to strap the Yankees to a poorly aging contract down the line, considering they’re already dealing with Giancarlo Stanton’s deal.

However, the market isn’t suggesting that Blake will get his desired price, and the Yanks may be able to sign him to a shorter-term contract or something they can compromise on. For now, there are still ace-level arms available, and the Yankees have no reason to be reactionary or overly aggressive.

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