Yankees have only 2 quality free agent pitching targets remaining

mlb: colorado rockies at san diego padres, blake snell, yankees
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The New York Yankees and general manager Brian Cashman have been playing a cautious and slow-paced game in free agency. Aside from acquiring Alex Verdugo, Juan Soto, and Trent Grisham, they haven’t spent much money on the open market.

Cashman offered up $300 million to Yoshinobu Yamamoto, but the Los Angeles Dodgers pushed it to $325 million, out of the Yankees’ price range. Unfortunately, they missed out on the top free-agent pitcher on the market, but there are still two remaining, even after losing out on Frankie Montas.

Montas signed a one-year, $16 million deal with the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday, despite reports indicating that he could return to the Bronx on a “prove-it” deal.

Now, the Yankees’ attention turns toward the last two high-upside free agents, if not the trade market.

The Yankees Could Opt For a Reunion

Immediately, a reunion with Jordan Montgomery comes to mind. Now 31 years old, Montgomery is coming off of a World Series-winning season, having pitched with the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers. He tossed 121 innings for the Cardinals in 2023 and hosted a 3.42 ERA, including a 73.1% left-on-base rate and 44.4% ground ball rate.

With Texas, he enjoyed a 2.79 ERA and an 80.8% left-on-base rate across 67.2 innings. He collected 4.3 WAR on the season, and just as Cashman thought he couldn’t do, Montgomery dominated during the playoffs. Over 31 games during the postseason, Montgomery enjoyed a 2.90 ERA.

MLB: World Series-Texas Rangers at Arizona Diamondbacks, yankees
Nov 1, 2023; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery (52) celebrates defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks to win the World Series in game five of the 2023 World Series at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The one thing to note is that Montgomery will never be a high strike-out arm, but he produces weak contact and doesn’t give up many home runs. That is obviously a good thing in Yankee Stadium, and the team has seen his qualities for many years.

The problem is that Cashman likely doesn’t want to overspend out of need, so he may look for cheaper alternatives and wait until the trade deadline next summer for an opportunity to reinforce the rotation, given the team is in a spot to compete for a World Series.

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Blake Snell an Option?

Alternatively, the Yankees could consider Blake Snell, but reuniting with Montgomery is more likely. Despite that, he should still be considered.

Snell is 31 years old as well, hosting a 2.25 ERA across 180 innings pitched last season with the San Diego Padres. Snell recently won the NL Cy Young award, recording 11.70 strikeouts per nine, 86.7% left-on-base rate, and 44.4% ground ball rate. Ultimately, the Yankees would be banking on Snell to put together another elite season, and that isn’t out of the realm of possibility. He struggles to push deep into games and has some inconsistencies that raise red flags — things to consider.

However, the Yankees are in dire need of support, and if they want to take a gamble on Snell, who’s only pitched over 150 innings twice in his career, he has the upside to be great.

Of course, both arms will likely cost upward of $125 million on a multi-year deal, but given both are 31, the Yankees don’t want to strap themselves to an aging rocket ship that will likely experience decline down the road.

They’ve already locked in Carlos Rodon on a six-year, $162 million deal, which is already aging poorly, so Cashman is trying to be extra careful on his investments as the team tries to get younger and more durable. Fortunately, Montgomery has been extremely durable throughout his career, pitching a minimum of 157 innings over his past three consecutive seasons.