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

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Boston Red Sox
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

There are a lot of questions regarding what the New York Yankees have planned for their rotation, but not everybody is on board with what they’re scheming. They’re expected to roll with a rotation that subtracted Luis Severino and has added Marcus Stroman, and to some, that still isn’t enough. While we can’t truly know what the rotation will provide this season, there are legitimate reasons to both believe and doubt what the Yankees currently have, but Jim Bowden of The Athletic seems to have a more pessimistic view.

If the Yankees are going to make the playoffs and contend for a World Series title, it’s not happening without adding another strong starter

– Jim Bowden

Whether you agree or not, those are big words regarding the state of their rotation, especially considering that all signs indicate this is an all-in year for the organization.

Are the Yankees in Dire Need of Another Ace?

MLB: Colorado Rockies at San Diego Padres
Sep 19, 2023; San Diego, California, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) throws a pitch against the Colorado Rockies during the first inning at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Jim Bowden didn’t mince his words regarding the Yankees and their rotation, although some projections view their pitching staff favorably. FanGraphs projects their starting five to have the sixth-best WAR (13.5) and eighth-best ERA (4.02) in 2024, but concerns about their health are legitimate. Nestor Cortes and Carlos Rodon have made huge strides early in Spring Training, displaying their normal velocities early in camp and showing that they’re well ahead of schedule. Still, they’ll need to prove themselves in the regular season to wash away the taste of an ugly 2023 season.

The two combined for just 26 starts last year after being All-Stars in 2022, and even when they did pitch it was to a combined 5.92 ERA, which certainly won’t cut it if the Yankees want to contend. Optimism that the two can improve is justified and valid, but health and progression aren’t always guaranteed. The Yankees’ sole addition to the rotation was Marcus Stroman, who made his second All-Star team last season but struggled in the second half due to hip injuries, a concern that will linger in 2024.

If the Yankees want to make improvements, which all signs would indicate they’re open to it, there’s still a bevy of talented arms available on the free agent and trade markets. The problem stems from the price, and there’s a reason both Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery remain free agents despite their excellent 2023 seasons and a desperate need for starting pitching across the league. Both were of interest to the Yankees as well, but they steered towards the direction of Stroman due to his lower cost, and more importantly, a shorter financial commitment.

MLB: Game One-New York Mets at New York Yankees
Jul 4, 2021; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Marcus Stroman (0) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Dylan Cease has been linked to the Yankees plenty of times throughout the winter, and the team is still open to making a trade for him, however, that’s come with a massive caveat. Spencer Jones is being held out of any trade talks, as his unique power-speed combination has made him a consensus top-100 prospect in the game. He’s been doing plenty of work over the offseason to improve his ability to get the ball in the air more consistently, but arguably the most enticing skill in his profile is the excellent glove out in centerfield.

Nonetheless, the Chicago White Sox are not going to force themselves to trade the 2022 Cy Young runner-up for a package they deem insufficient, and they seem content holding onto him until the deadline. The Yankees could pivot to a guy like Shane Bieber from the Cleveland Guardians, but they don’t feel overly inclined to trade him right now either. It isn’t impossible to strike a deal for the 2020 AL Cy Young winner, but the AL Central is wide-open and they could try to compete in the first half and revisit the conversation at the deadline.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Cleveland Guardians
Jul 4, 2023; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Guardians starting pitcher Shane Bieber (57) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Atlanta Bravesb at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees as of right now aren’t going to burn through their trade and financial chips to land a starter before Opening Day, as they have enough to at least get them through July. Their Minor League depth is impressive, with both Chase Hampton and Will Warren turning heads early in camp, and the Yankees have also taken a liking to Luke Weaver after his impressive (albeit brief) stint with the team last September. It’s not to say that the team couldn’t serve to benefit from an addition to their rotation, but rather they aren’t in a position where they need to make a desperate overpay.

With Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery left on the free-agent board and Dylan Cease of the White Sox still available via trade, New York must land one of them. At least that’s my take.

– Jim Bowden

All of this depends on your evaluation of their rotation right now; cautious optimism isn’t always correct, even when the data suggests we have reason to believe in a position group. As the season carries on, needs will become more apparent, and the Yankees will likely revisit any trade talks on starting pitchers in July regardless of who they add in February.

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