It’s no secret that Gerrit Cole is off to an incredible start in 2021. Through 10 starts, he is doing exactly what the Yankees acquired him to do and more – he’s currently 6-2 with a 1.81 ERA, 92 strikeouts in only 64.2 innings, and an incredible 226 ERA+. Even his bad starts are merely average. Although the true Gerrit Cole experience in New York may have been delayed, fans are finally hoping to see what a full season of ace pitching will look like from the team’s marquee 2019 signing, and so far we have not been disappointed.
If we were to project Cole’s early-season stats to an entire year, assuming he pitches approximately 200 innings, the results would be pretty mind-blowing; you would see something in the range of an 18-win season with over 270 strikeouts and 8+ WAR. Although the year is young, I couldn’t help but wonder – that would be the Yankees’ best starting pitching season in a really long time, right? Where could Gerrit Cole rank in the pantheon of recent Yankees’ aces when the book is closed on 2021?
Throughout their vaunted history, the Yankees have employed many great pitchers who have done many great things. However, most lists of the “greatest Yankees starting pitchers of all time” and “greatest single-season Yankees starting pitching performances” feature predominantly, if not exclusively, performances from before 1980. 1980 was a long time ago – Gerrit Cole, in fact, was not born until September 8, 1990. Cole is clearly poised to become the standard-bearer for a new era of Yankees pitching, but he may also be on his way to the best season the Yankees have seen since before his own birth. To contextualize, I bring you a few excellent seasons by Yankees starting pitching, post-1990 edition.
We have a couple of inquiries to address in this week’s mailbag. As always, send any questions you have to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com. We’ll consider and select our favorites each week. With that, let’s get to what in store this morning:
Daniel asks: Who do you think will be available at the trade deadline?
I think you’re going to see a spillover of some names we heard come up this winter. Kris Bryant and Trevor Story immediately come to mind as the two top players who could be available a few months from now. Hell, if the Bryant/Mets rumors from previous weeks have any validity, he may not even last until July.
The key thing that Bryant and Story have in common is that both are free agents after this season. Both don’t seem particularly likely to stay put on their current teams, either. The Cubs (Yu Darvish) and Rockies (Nolan Arenado) have just traded core players, clearly signaling a rebuild. Plus, Bryant’s relationship with the Cubs is icy and the Rockies never seem to hold on to their top players.
Now, I don’t really expect the Yankees to go for a big rental like Bryant or Story. That’s just not something they’ve done in a long time. Wouldn’t surprise me to see the Yankees go after an infielder midseason, but definitely not a top tier guy. Someone like Baltimore’s Freddy Galvis should be available. If not Galvis, likely another upcoming free agent.
It’s more likely that the Yankees go after another pitcher at the deadline. We’d all like to have Luis Castillo in pinstripes, but let’s not get carried away. I really doubt he’ll be available. The Reds have absolutely no good reason to trade him. In combing through pitchers in contract seasons, a few stood out as potentially available come the deadline:
Bundy has fascinated me as a target since last summer, and I’m including him again. The Angels aren’t actually going to contend, right? Right. The Cubs just picked up Davies in the Darvish trade and there’s no reason to think they’re keeping Davies if they aren’t in the hunt. Then there’s Gausman, who the Yankees have had interest in before. Finally, why not a reunion with Paxton midseason? What if he’s back to throwing in the mid-to-upper 90s? The Mariners aren’t going anywhere. We know Paxton can pitch in New York. As strange as that would be, it could work.
It’s January 5th and the Yankees have yet to do anything of significance to improve the current roster. Perhaps now that the holiday season has come and gone, things can get moving again so bloggers like us can resume publishing currently relevant content. Instead, today we offer something different that stems from a Twitter discussion yesterday.
Thought exercise: You can pick one former Yankee (must be retired, not just on another team) and one year of his career (must be a year on the Yankees) and assign it to the 2021 team. Based on NEED, not just who had the best year, who do you pick and why? Post-integration, pls.
The four of us (Randy, Matt, Bobby, and Derek) are doing a quick draft based on this question with a couple of additional stipulations. One, we’re whittling in down to players in our lifetimes. Additionally, it’s a one year assignment, so whoever we pick has no bearing on the Yankees in 2022 and beyond. With that, let’s get to the draft.
Official announcement of Derek Jeter’s induction to the Hall of Fame will occur later today. It’ll be the second straight year featuring a Yankee, with Mariano Rivera entering Cooperstown last summer. But after these two prominent Yankees, who’s next?
Returning to the ballot for 2021
There are a number of ex-Yankees already on the ballot that will return for the next round of voting. Some are more notable than others.
On numbers alone, Roger Clemens belongs in the Hall. The Rocket spent six of his 24 seasons with the Yankees, though his best seasons were elsewhere. But more important than performance, his case is marred by allegations of statutory rape of a minor and PED usage.
Andy Pettitte will return to the ballot for a third time, but will likely fall short again. He received a respectable 9.9 percent of the votes last year; we’ll see how that shifts this season. Pettitte was a great Yankee, but falls short of Hall-worthiness statistically speaking. His link to PEDs won’t help his case anyway.
Gary Sheffield spent three seasons in pinstripes but absolutely raked while doing so (135 OPS+). He hasn’t received any higher than 13.6 percent of the vote and next year will be his seventh try. Again, PED allegations hinder his electability in spite of 509 career homer runs.
As long as they get 5 percent of the vote, Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu will return to the ballot for a second time next year. Giambi won’t make it, but he was fun to watch hit in the Bronx from 2002 through 2008. Similarly, Abreu is going to fall short.
Here are some notable names coming to the ballot in future years:
AJ Burnett, Nick Swisher
Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira
This is a pretty interesting group upcoming. Burnett, Swisher, and Teixeira all fall short by the numbers, though of that trio, Teix seemed to be on the track at one point. The switch-hitting first baseman really fell off after 2011, his age-31 season. Through that point, he had 314 homers, a 132 OPS+, and 44.1 bWAR. But he only rebounded for one more big season — 2015 — before he retired after his age-36 season a year later. Teixeira finished with 409 homers and just under 52 WAR. A very good career, no doubt, but he just didn’t have the longevity.
Things get much more intriguing when you consider A-Rod and Beltrán. The former’s lifetime numbers are historically great: he swatted 696 homers, recorded 3,115 hits, and accumulated 117.8 WAR. However, and this is a big one: he served a season-long PED suspension in 2014. And that wasn’t the first time he used PEDs, either. In 2009, he admitted to using back when he was with the Rangers. So, even though the numbers would make him a slam dunk, the drug usage almost assuredly will keep him out of Cooperstown.
Then there’s Beltrán. Before the recent news that has dominated the baseball world, I figured Beltrán would enter the Hall eventually. He’s got the sabermetric case with just under 70 WAR, though I’m not certain people thought of him as a shoe-in. Anyway, the decision to elect him may not be so difficult after all. His transgressions in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal will undoubtedly adversely affect his candidacy. He was explicitly called out in the Commissioner’s report which will do quite a bit of damage.
The next inductee: CC Sabathia
Bobby already wrote about why Sabathia belongs in Cooperstown, so no need to rehash here. We just have to play the waiting game now. Sabathia will be eligible in five years and hopefully will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. After Jeter, he’s clearly the next individual in line to don a Yankees cap in the Hall of Fame.
Down the road
Looking forward to being 50 years-old in 2040 when Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, and Gerrit Cole (among others) go into the Hall as Yankees, you guys. Anyway, for fun, allow me to power rank the top five current Yankees most likely to get a plaque:
Time for some rapid-fire thoughts on this. I feel like picking Gleyber is bold given some of the accomplishments others on this list have, but I’ll do it no less. Stanton already has 309 homers and is just 31 years-old. Cole has a chance to cement himself as the best pitcher of his generation. Judge has Hall of Fame talent but will need a strong late career considering he didn’t start until he was 25 and has missed time because of injuries. Lastly, Chapman could end his career with the highest strikeout rate of all-time and very high up on the all-time saves list. That said, his domestic violence suspension should give voters pause.