Yankees eyeing superstar pitcher from the Astros to bolster starting rotation

Alexander Wilson
new york yankees, justin verlander
Oct 4, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) delivers a pitch during the fifth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The only starting pitcher the New York Yankees are set to lose is Jameson Taillon, who general manager Brian Cashman avoided discussing during his most recent press conference. Taillon served as a solid No. 5 pitcher, but the Yankees are trying to keep reallocating their costs at some positions so they can afford Aaron Judge and first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who is expected to make a bit more money in free agency.

However, it seems as if the Yankees will try their luck once again for Houston Astro star pitcher, Justin Verlander. The 39-year-old veteran is coming off a Cy Young-caliber season, earning a 1.75 ERA, 3.23 xFIP, 9.51 strikeouts per nine, and 80.5% left-on-base rate over 175 innings.

Clearly, Verlander still has the longevity to feature as one of the league’s top starting pitchers, coming off Tommy John surgery in 2021.

Despite his age, Verlander might have a few years left of elite-level pitching, something the Yankees would love to add to a rotation that is headlined by Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortés, Luis Severino, and Frankie Montas. Adding the Houston star to the mix would give them arguably one of the best rotations in the game, and if they manage to retain Judge in the process, the Yankees will be an incredibly difficult team to knock off in the postseason.

It is important to note that Verlander did struggle a bit during the playoffs this year, earning a 5.85 ERA over 20 innings. Historically, he features a 3.64 ERA over 207.2 playoff innings — more than adequate. Verlander primarily relies on his 4-seam fastball, slider, and curveball. His fastball generated a .194 average this past season, tossing it at 50.4%. His slider represented his top strikeout pitch, earning a 26.7% put-away rate with 90 strikeouts over 218 at-bats.

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The Yankees can still get the best of Justin Verlander for a season or two:

While Verlander’s velocity simmered at a crisp 95 mph, he still generates incredible break on his pitches. His 4-seam fastball curated 54% more horizontal movement than the average pitcher, representing one of the best fastballs in baseball.

The question is, how much would it take for the Yankees to sign Verlander in the first place, especially after opting out of a deal that would’ve paid him $25 million in 2023?

The Bombers may consider a two-year, $60-million deal with a player option after the second year, given Verlander‘s age at this point in time. Since he’s about to turn 40, his quality will fall off at some point, so the Yankees must protect themselves if they want to take that route. At the end of the day, stealing quality players away from World Series-caliber rosters isn’t a bad strategy.