Yankees face serious pitching challenges that must be addressed

William Parlee
carlos rodon, yankees

Before the MLB lockout, the New York Yankees took a wait-and-see approach to obtain any needed players to fill the holes in the 2022 staff. We all know the Yankees need a shortstop, a number two starting pitcher, a first baseman, and help in center field. But, general manager Brian Cashman sat on his hands while many of the best options were acquired by other teams.

All but one of the biggest shortstop names are no longer in free agency. Marcus Semien and Corey Seager went to the Texas Rangers, and Javier Baez went to the Detroit Tigers. So that leaves just Carlos Correa and Trevor Story, both of which will demand at least $30 million contracts per annum based on what the other big names have gotten.

The Yankees saw the top 20 free-agent pitchers on the pitching front already scooped up. Max Scherzer went to the cross-town Mets. Robbie Ray went to the Seattle Mariners, Kevin Gausman to the Toronto Blue Jays, Eduardo Rodriguez to the Detroit Tigers, and Marcus Stroman was scooped up by the Chicago Cubs. The Yankees did make a play for Houston’s Justin Verlander, but he ended up signing back with the Astros.

There aren’t many premium-type starters left for the Yankees to choose from with all of those big signings. When the Yankees failed to resign 2 time Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber, it left a big hole in the Yankee starting rotation. Right now, Jameson Taillon seems to be the only Yankee starter to move up to the number two spot, but he is still rehabbing and likely won’t give the Yankees that one-two punch they will need to get to the postseason.

There are some options out there for the Yankees, but they are not significant upgrades from Taillon. So the Yankees may have to go the trade route. There are a couple of big names still in free agency. Clayton Kershaw is out there, but for an aging pitcher that isn’t as good as he once was, the Yankees won’t want to spend $30+ million for him. There also is the less expensive Zack Grienke of the Astros, but with his history of anxiety, the bright lights of New York are not the best fit for him.

Jameson Taillon came to the Yankees via trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates and may again look to them to solve their pitching problems. Pittsburgh does deal, so could a trade be made for their ace Mitch Keller?

Even though the Pirates ace, Keller is not a great pitcher, he could eat up a lot of innings for the Yankees. He had a good season in the short 2020 season, but not so much in 2019 and 2021. Last season he became the first NL pitcher since 1938 to have back-to-back 5+ no-hit innings. But his 2021 record of 5-11, 6.17 ERA, 1.788 WHIP certainly isn’t something the Yankees will want. Keller has been on the verge of greatness. Could Matt Blake take him over that plateau?

The Yankees could also consider Carlos Rodon. Rodon had a 2.37 ERA last season with the Chicago White Sox, but that was his only good season. Last season his pitching velocity increased by about three miles per hour. That will be something the Yankees will be looking at.

Rodon posted a 2.37 ERA this past year, representing his lone successful season. The Yankees might be able to get away with offering Rodon a three-year deal with an out after the second season by increasing his pay per season to sweeten the offer. Of the pitchers out there, he might provide the only one-two punch the Yankees will be looking for going into the 2022 season.

Beyond that, Cashman will have to work his magic with under-performing pitchers with an upside that he feels will fit in New York and could benefit from working with pitching coach Matt Blake, much like he did with James Paxton and J.A. Happ.