It only took a few months, but the Yankees finally made a couple of moves last week. Randy, Matt, and I broke things down on the podcast yesterday, but I have a couple of more thoughts I want to add today. Let’s get to them.
1. Corey Kluber’s potential is tantalizing, but I don’t like the gamble. I really don’t want to evaluate this deal with the luxury tax in mind, but Hal Steinbrenner has left little choice. As much as I disagree with the goal to keep payroll below $210 million, it looks inevitable. So, I have to question the front office utilizing $11 million on Kluber. Per Roster Resource, the Yankees are now at $207.4 million in payroll for luxury tax purposes after adding Kluber and DJ LeMahieu. That leaves little room for improvements to the major league roster barring a salary dump. I think we all would like the Yankees to add to the pitching staff, but at this point, free agency appears out of the question.
As an alternative, I think I’d have preferred Jose Quintana. I know, I know, boring. But I’m much more confident in him staying healthy and taking the ball every fifth day. Quintana’s been as durable as they come: he made 31 starts or more annually from 2013 through 2019. In 2020, he cut his hand before the season began and later had his season end due to lat inflammation, but I’ll take that over Kluber’s recent health. He’s made just eight starts over the last two seasons, and ended 2020 with a shoulder injury. Quintana signed with the Angels for $8 million this week, by the way. A similar deal would have left more budget room.
Of course, I hope I’m really wrong about this. I mean, I get the appeal of Kluber. There’s a nonzero chance that the Yankees have two or three aces by season’s end! Kluber, along with Gerrit Cole and Luis Severino, looks pretty damn formidable on paper. That’s pretty exciting, not going to lie. In any case, I’m far from the authority on this and the front office surely has good reason to bring in Kluber, risks and all. Hell, it’s not even just the front office that apparently prefers Kluber. A couple of projection systems think much more highly of Kluber, in comparison to Quintana, than I do.
- Kluber: 118.2 IP, 3.87 ERA, 3.93 FIP
- Quintana: 126.2 IP, 4.76 ERA, 4.54 FIP
- Kluber: 153 IP, 4.04 ERA, 4.08 FIP
- Quintana: 156 IP, 4.39 ERA, 4.54 FIP
2. Not to excuse the Yankees, but it’s also really hard to build a rotation full of innings eaters. After spending a few hundred words on how I don’t really like the Kluber move, I think we could also back off on the front office a bit when it comes to building a rotation. It’s not easy! Look, we all want starters who are durable and effective. There aren’t many of those out there, though. Most other teams have the very same issue that the Yankees have in terms of starting depth. But one thing the Yankees have over the majority of other clubs? A true, bonafide ace in Gerrit Cole. That goes a long way.
Off hand, how many teams do you think have a better starting rotation than the Yankees do? I’ll give you a few, in no particular order:
- Maybe the White Sox?
That’s just my subjective list. So it came as a surprise for me to find that FanGraphs projects the Yankees to have the second-best group of starters in MLB. Yup, only the Padres rank ahead of the Yankees’ staff. Again, having Cole helps push the Yankees up in this list, but a number of solid projections follow him. Perhaps it’s time for us to have a little more confidence in some of the Yankees’ young arms like Deivi García, Clarke Schmidt, Jordan Montgomery, and Michael King. Now, do I still want more pitching? Of course. I just wanted to put things in perspective and give the front office a little bit of credit for what’s already in house.