New York Mets: Three Candidates To Round Out The Starting Rotation

New York Yankees, James Paxton

The New York Mets still need another arm to solidify their rotation as they wait for Noah Syndergaard‘s midseason return. The next expensive purchase for Steve Cohen will likely go towards George Springer over Trevor Bauer. In that case, here are three good options the Mets can sign for 2021.

1. James Paxton

Unless they overpay like the New York Yankees did for Corey Kluber, James Paxton should be a bargain for whichever team signs him. Injuries and lack of spring training cause Paxton to finish 2020 with an ERA over four for the first time in his career.

Paxton touched 94 mph on his fastball during a throwing session in December with just under 20 teams in attendance. The velocity is slightly under his typical mark, but it is an encouraging sign as he recovers from a flexor strain. Paxton would be a one-year rental and give the Mets a fifth starter with a reliable track record.

2. Gio Gonzalez

 

Gio Gonzalez was once a nemesis of the Mets during his days as a Washington National. Even after he left, Gonzalez still found a way to have success in Citi Field. Gonzalez is 11-2 with a 1.83 ERA and one shutout over 18 starts at Citi Field. He said he feels comfortable pitching in Citi Field and is another reliable option for their fifth starter. Gonzalez also understands his role as a reliever when Syndergaard returns and in the postseason.

3. Taijuan Walker

Taijuan Walker is a younger version of Kluber’s value in the free-agent market. Walker is only heading into his age-28 season and is coming off a 2.70 ERA in 2020. He may warrant more money due to his age and past performance, but his injuries are always a major risk. Walker has never made 30 starts in his career, and the last time he made at least 20 starts was in 2017. He has a 3.84 ERA in his career and gives the Mets another formidable starter without the pressure to pitch major innings.

New York Yankees to Give Gio Gonzalez a Starting Chance

The New York Yankees and Gio Gonzalez agreed to a minor league contract with $3M base if he is in the majors, per Ken Rosenthal, and it includes an op out on April 20 and additional incentives based on games started.

Gonzalez has been throwing to hitters in Miami, according to George A. King III, while waiting to sign, but he won’t be ready for big-league action until the middle of April or later. 

Gonzalez is an insurance policy for a rotation that was always vulnerable to injury, as all rotations are, and had only the kids, Jonathan Loaisiga, Domingo German and Luis Cessa, as depth.  Gonzalez, it appears, will be vying with the Yankee youth for a starting spot.

While Cessa in particular is having a successful spring campaign, it appears with the acquisition of Gonzalez that the Yankees weren’t convinced that the rotation was set for the coming season.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman once again looks like a genius for bringing in a veteran who finished the season with a postseason contender and pitched to a 2.13 ERA and a 3-0 record in 5 games for the Milwaukee Brewers down the stretch in ’18.

But I have to wonder how much economics drove the decision not to bolster the rotation with an arm like Patrick Corbin when he was available rather than wait until the season is almost upon us and the Yankees have two injured starters to go out and pick up Gonzalez for $3M.

While hardly a reclamation project like Troy Tulowitzki, Gonzalez, 33, has shown signs of decline.  Larry Fleischer of forbes.com  said:

“Gonzalez’s 4.21 ERA last season was the second-highest of his career and his fastball velocity has declined from 92 to 89.8 mph since 2015. His strikeout rate dropped under 20 percent for the first time and his WHIP of 1.44 was its highest since 2009 when he appeared in 20 games for the Oakland Athletics.”

Gonzalez may be seeing signs of age, but his work for the Brewers after being traded there last season is probably the reason he is in pinstripes now.  Cashman is hoping to catch lightning in a bottle with Gonzalez and see what he has left to contribute to a winning ball club.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone gave some indication of how the Yankees view Gonzalez in a recent interview with nj.com.  Boone said:

“Has had years obviously where he’s been a frontline guy. I think right now, especially with being a couple guys down, to have a guy like him still available … It’s a luxury to be able to add him just for some depth.”

Expect to see Gonzalez in one of these situations in the coming days, according to Boone in nj.com – piggbacking off a start by Masahiro Tanaka in a start against the Blue Jays, pitching in a minor league game or in a sim game.

It would appear that the Yankees are looking to ramp up Gonzalez as a starter.  The battle between the veteran southpaw and the young Yankee pitchers is one of the most exciting battles of the spring yet and promises to be the most significant.

 

New York Yankees: How Concerned Should We Be About Luis Severino’s Injury?

On Monday, the New York Yankees presumed ace Luis Severino was scratched from his first spring start due to what the team called “rotator cuff inflammation” and will be shut down for two weeks. Yankees skipper Aaron Boone said that it is “highly unlikely” that Severino will start the season with the team, forcing the Yankees to look for a new opening day starter. Severino was warming up in the bullpen and felt pain in his shoulder at about 1PM, 10 minutes prior to first pitch.

With Severino likely not on the 25 man roster to start the season, this leaves the fifth starting pitcher position wide open. Plus, how severe is Severino’s injury anyway? We’ll look into all of it right now.

Yankees: Severino’s concern level

From what we hear, the Yankees are not particularly concerned about Severino…. yet. When he had his MRI Tuesday, the results came back quite clean. With that being said, he should be cleared after two weeks if his shoulder isn’t hurting. No Tommy John surgery has been recommended, but if he continues to have pain after the two weeks, the team will grow more concerned.

The plan is to begin a throwing program after the two weeks, then get him some in-game action before camp breaks and the team heads to Washington for an exhibition. My guess is that he would spend a week or two in extended spring training before going to Trenton and/or Scranton for a few rehab stints. Remember, CC Sabathia is also a few weeks behind due to his offseason heart surgery and will also likely not be on the opening day roster.

Options from free agency

When talking about free-agents, two names come into the minds of Yankees fans: Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez.

In 2018, Dallas Keuchel had a rather down season, his ERA at 3.74 in just over 200 innings. A lot of people thought that the Yankees might push towards him more than signing JA Happ or acquiring James Paxton. But the team didn’t and now heading towards the middle part of March and spring training, he remains a free-agent.

Gio Gonzalez had an ERA last season of 4.21, but remained effective with a 10-11 record in just over 170 innings. Gonzalez, now 33, was a former first round draft pick in 2004. He could still be a fit for any team, and his stats show those of an average fifth starter.

But which one is the better option? In my opinion, Gonzalez is. Gonzalez is older than Keuchel and is now fit to be a five starter, and will not want a whole lot of money. Keuchel was the Astros number one starter just a few years ago, but is now settling as more of a two or three starter.

If Keuchel was available after the 2019 season, the Yankees would jump right on board with him, but they have a solid rotation when healthy. Signing Keuchel would be expensive, and would force the Yankees to really rearrange their pitching staff once everyone is healthy. With Gonzalez, you can DFA or release him and not lose much of anything for your team or salary.

In-house options

The Yankees have a few guys who could replace both Severino and CC in the first few weeks of the season.

Luis Cessa is the first name Yankee fans jump to. Cessa hasn’t had it that great so far in the big leagues, an ERA a bit under five and a 5-11 record. He is slowly improving, but the problem is that he’s out of options. If he starts in the MLB this season, to send him to Scranton they must DFA him and hope he clears waivers.

Domingo German struggled last year for the Yankees, making some starts for injured pitchers in the springtime. His ERA was over 5.50 and won just two games in 14 starts. But his start this spring has been promising, giving up no runs thus far in 4 2/3 innings.

Jonathan Loaisiga, or “Jonny Lasagna” also made a few starts last season, but had an ERA over five despite going 2-0. He definitely needs some more work, and got hammered on Tuesday against the Cardinals, giving up four runs in 2 1/3 innings.

It remains unknown how the Yankees will fill Severino’s hole to start the season, but either way the team goes, there are options.