The Yankees should trade for two starting pitchers

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There is no doubt that the the Yanks need to add depth to their starting rotation. Most every serious analyst or fan would agree with that claim. The base is looking for – or hoping for – an ace like Mad Max (gotta dream, right?). Of course, the Yankee should try and get the best starting pitcher available. That should be the priority. But in addition to that, they need to try and get another big-league arm that can competently start games that can serve as quality MLB depth. Think Lance Lynn, only this time they’ll use him correctly.

There are two competing arguments for this: one realistic and one idealistic. But either way, the Yanks will encounter one of these situations. The realistic outcome is that the Yanks will suffer another injury to their starting rotation. There’s a long season left to go, and their staff isn’t necessarily known for their durability. The idealistic outcome is that they have depth and can use a six-man rotation.

Let’s take a look at both outcomes and why adding two starters is necessary.

Realism

It’s fairly likely that at least one current starter will get hurt and need a stint on the IL. We all know about Sabathia’s ongoing knee issues and Happ’s age, but Paxton and Tanaka aren’t known for throwing full seasons either. Tanaka has never thrown more than 200 IP, even if he did throw 199.2 in 2016. Regardless, never surpassing a 200-inning season is because he usually suffers some or injury that requires an IL stint. Paxton’s injury history even worse – his max IP in a season is 160, last year. Not ideal.

In addition, German is going to be on an innings limit. This doesn’t mean he won’t pitch all season, but he will be restricted, and the pen will be readily used when he starts down the stretch. This will make him less of a go to starter than he has been to start the year.

With Green already being used as an opener, the Yanks wouldn’t have many choices for another starter. Even if no current starter suffers an injury, Severino could surely suffer a setback or a re-injury. Shoulders are sensitive, especially to a 100mph fireballer.

So, adding one starter and suffering one injury will leave the yanks using Green as an opener, or (god forbid), letting Cessa start games again. Not great in my opinion. And certainly not great for their pen either.

Idealism

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I think a six-man rotation fits the Yanks’ personnel perfectly. Let’s imagine this for a second: nobody gets hurt, Severino comes back, and the Yanks add two starters. This means the Yankees have some room to play around with their rotation.

Sevy, Tanaka, Paxton, German, CC, and one more. So, there’s still one more starter left. The point is that the type of pitcher the Yanks would acquire could eat innings in the pen or be disposable if everything goes perfectly.

Another possibility is that German moves to the pen. I don’t necessarily love this idea but if he can transition to that role well it’ll be quality late innings, less stress on high leverage relievers, and fit with his innings limit.

Regardless, the main point is that the Yankees should try and use a six-man rotation for a few reasons. The first is that it protects their health and keeps German with less stress. But the second is more interesting: Yanks starters are better with more rest. Check this out:

Masahiro Tanaka

  • 4 Days Rest: 3.44 ERA 1.152 WHIP 4.84 SO/BB .250 BA against
  • 5 days rest: 3.72 ERA 1.117 WHIP 4.88 SO/BB .242 BA against
  • 6+ days rest: 3.31 ERA .972 WHIP 5.06SO/BB .208 BA against

James Paxton

  • 4 days rest: 3.68 ERA 1.264 WHIP 3.66SO/BB .252 BA against
  • 5 days rest: 3.30 ERA, 1.133 WHIP 4.10 SO/BB .231 BA against
  • 6+ days rest: 3.16 ERA 1.127 WHIP 3.09 SO/BB .214 BA against

J.A. Happ

  • 4 days rest: 3.58 ERA 1.276 WHIP 2.48 SO/BB .246 BA against
  • 5 days rest: 4.48 ERA 1.371 WHIP 2.46 SO/BB .257 BA against
  • 6+ days rest: 3.76 ERA 1.231 WHIP 2.64 SO/BB .239 BA against

The difference in production for Paxton seems the most obvious. Except for strikeouts, each category improves with the more rest he has.  For Tanaka, the difference between four days and six days is stark, and there’s a bit of a bump on the fifth day. Regardless, the point remains: more rest usually means better pitching. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in all three starting pitchers their batting average against decreases with more rest.

Pluss. I’m sure Sabathia wouldn’t mind another day off in between starts, and Sevy’s shoulder probably would too.

The pen this year has thrown 280 IP through 74 games and last year at this time they had thrown 253–might not seem like a lot, but it’s a significant increase. Another starting pitcher will take innings away from the pen, especially as the goal is to remove the role of an opener. Resting the Yanks’ best weapons is always a good idea and adding two starters will do that.


I can’t predict the future, so maybe the Yanks won’t suffer another injury all year and Sevy will come back and perform how he did to start last year. I hope that’s the case. But the Yanks front office has to prepare for the worst-case scenario as they try to win their first World Series in 10 years.

Adding two starters – one dominant and one role player – will be extremely beneficial to the 2019 Yanks specifically. Their starters thrive on extra rest and will likely need it as they nurse fickle injuries.

Go do your thing, Cash.

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10 Comments

  1. The Original Drew

    I think you have a serious sample size issue when you’re comparing the days rest which makes your data pretty misleading.

  2. RetroRob

    The return of German is being underestimated, likely because many fans feared the league caught up to him his last three starts. We now know that his poor pitching coincided exactly with the hip injury that eventually DL’d him. You could see it on the mound beginning with the game against the Royals. He couldn’t command his pitches are follow through on them consistently.

    He doesn’t need to return to the All-Star form we saw over his first 10 appearances, although I wouldn’t bet against it. He just needs to be solid.

    The innings limit? The injury helps here, quite a bit. They basically got to shut him down for over a month. He’s pitched as many as a 123 innings in a season twice. He could take it up to the 150-160 inning range this year as long as he stays healthy. He probably won’t return until around the All-Star break, which he could be set to remain in the rotation through the remainder of the season.

    Add in Severino come August, and I suspect the Yankees only need to acquire one more starter.

    • CountryClub

      I’m cautiously optimistic regarding German. I think the real German probably falls somewhere in the middle of the 2 versions that we saw this year. And, that’s not bad at all.

      • RetroRob

        @CountryClub, I feel the same way. I think he was a bit lucky his first 10 appearances at suppressing HRs, but all his other peripherals along with the eye test suggested he was for real. Granted, I’ve been a big German fans since he was acquired as the “lottery ticket” in the Prado deal. Something between the two would be welcome, but not betting against front-end starter either. Health is his concern.

        • lightSABR

          Too many reasonable commenters on this site. You say something reasonable, he reasonably agrees, you reasonably post a reasonable reply. How are we going to get any entertaining arguments if everybody’s right about everything all the time?

          (Okay, I’ll admit it: three bad starts and an injury, and I pretty much forgot German was on the team. So thanks for reminding me.)

          • RetroRob

            Hopefully in time we can get more commentators, as long as they’re reasonable. Dare to dream. The site gets good traffic based on what I’ve heard. The posting system is a bit awkward, but maybe that’s a plus. Keeps some of the problem children away.

  3. CountryClub

    Assuming Mad Max is off limits, and I think he is, they’re not going to trade for a better pitcher than Severino. He’s going to be the key for them. Health is an issue for every team’s rotation. But, if the yanks have a healthy Sevy, Paxton & Tanaka heading into the playoffs, their rotation is good enough to beat anyone (regardless of who the 4th starter is).

    • SM

      I think the more realistic way to improve the pitching staff is to further supplement the pen.

      • CountryClub

        I’m certainly not counting on it at this point. But, getting Betances back would be freaking sweet.

      • Too many chefs spoil the sauce. Ideally I’d like another front line starter. I think when you try to get through October throwing 4-5 pitchers a game, you will find one guy who can’t get the job done.

        Pen could be toast by then too. Need some starters to eat innings as well.

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