It’s not often a 100-win season feels like a disappointment, but that is certainly the case for the New York Yankees. The Yankees went 100-62 in 2018 and still had to settle for a spot in the Wild Card Game. They were then ousted in the ALDS by the rival Red Sox, who went on to win the World Series. Lots of winning, sure, but a disappointing finish.
The Yankees came into the 2018-19 offseason with a very specific goal in mind: Improve the rotation. CC Sabathia and J.A. Happ are free agents and Sonny Gray is as good as traded. New York’s rotation depth chart currently looks something like this:
MLB.com considers both Sheffield (No. 31) and Loaisiga (No. 66) top 100 prospects, though they could both use some more Triple-A time, especially so in Sheffield’s case. Behind Severino and Tanaka, the Yankees have some talented but unproven young pitchers currently in line for rotation spots. That’s not where the Yankees want to be.
Of course, the offseason is still very young, and the Yankees have plenty of time to attack free agency and the trade market. In fact, they are reportedly meeting with one potential trade partner about some high-end starters at the GM Meetings in Carlsbad, Calif., on Tuesday.
The Indians are said to be open to trading veterans this offseason, including Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, as they move payroll around and look to improve their roster in multiple ways. Kluber and Carrasco are both excellent and signed affordably for another two years. They are exactly the kind of strikeout-heavy, top of the rotation arms the Yankees crave.
Furthermore, the Mariners are reportedly considering a rebuild, so it’s no surprise the Yankees have already been connected to James Paxton. Paxton is not quite at the Kluber/Carrasco level, but he is very good, and he is under team control through 2020. Big lefties always seem to mix well with Yankee Stadium too. Patrick Corbin is an obvious free agent target as well.
Despite several trades and graduations the last two years, the Yankees do still have a strong farm system, one with enough pieces to go out and get a Kluber or a Carrasco or a Paxton. Can they swing a trade for a pitcher like that while hanging on to Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar? It might be possible, sure, but getting pitchers like that will hurt. They’ll cost you.
The Yankees stayed under the $197 million luxury tax threshold in 2018 and thus reset their tax rate. Now, if they exceed the $206 million threshold in 2019, they will only be taxed 20 percent rather than the previous 50 percent. Money is rarely an issue for the Yankees. The case can be made they are in better position to spend right now than they have been in years.
If ownership is up for it, the Yankees have the financial wherewithal to sign Corbin, take on Kluber’s contract ($52.5 million through 2021), and sign another pitcher to round out the rotation. And do more, really. Add another reliever and maybe dip their toe in the Bryce Harper or Manny Machado pool. For now, starting pitching is the priority, and the Yankees are already discussing scenarios at the GM Meetings this week.
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