Analysis

Yankees: Five 2019 Starting Rotation Candidates

After an ultimately disappointing 2018 season that was ended by the hands of the Red Sox on their home turf, the Yankees will certainly be addressing roster needs — with millions of dollars.

Their top priority should be simple: Starting pitching. As a club, Yankees’ starters posted a 4.05 ERA, placing as the 14th-best mark in baseball. With CC Sabathia and deadline acquisitions, J.A Happ and Lance Lynn set to become free agents, the only secure rotation locks are Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka. Below are five possible options to fill out manager Aaron Boone’s starting staff.

1. CC Sabathia

Despite a not-so-great performance in game four of the ALDS where he allowed three runs in three innings in the series-ending loss to the Red Sox, CC Sabathia did put up solid numbers for the Yankees in the regular season once again. The 38-year-old started 29 games to the tune of a 3.65 ERA/4.16 FIP, marking his 3rd straight season with an ERA below 4.00.

He’s nothing more than a decent 4th or 5th  starter, but Sabathia posted the lowest hard-hit rate in the American League this past season which is one of the more promising stats one could look at to determine a pitcher’s effectiveness. Ergo, if the Yankees could retain him on another one-year deal but worth less than $10M, it wouldn’t be the worst idea.

2. J.A. Happ

From his first start in pinstripes, J.A. was absolute money for a Yankees’ club that drastically needed a consistent and solid starter. Following a July 26th trade from the Blue Jays, Happ went an undefeated 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA in 11 starts with the Yankees.

Although it will take a multi-year contract if the Yankees want him to return to their staff in 2019, the stability and consistency he provides could be worth re-signing the 35-year-old. After all, the left-hander hasn’t seen his season mark for ERA climb above 3.65 in the past four years. Not too bad for a 3rd or 4th starter behind Severino and Tanaka.

3. Patrick Corbin

If not already, this is a name that fans will be hearing quite often as a possible free agent signing to be. The 29-year-old lefty is coming off a career year in 2018 where he posted a 3.15 ERA/2.47 FIP with an 11.07 K/9 in 33 starts for the Diamondbacks. Factor in that he grew up in New York with a family full of Yankee fans, and it seems like a match made in heaven.

It’s not clear whether or not Corbin is headed towards a $100M payday, but he is going to be one the most sought-after names heading into this offseason’s free agent class.

4. Dallas Keuchel

The 2015 Cy-Young winning Dallas Keuchel that won 20 games with a 2.48 ERA is gone, to be blunt. However, the soon to be 31-year-old is still quite a serviceable option to be a number two starter in a team’s rotation. In 34 starts, the southpaw eclipsed the 200-innings mark for the 3rd time in his career with a 3.74 ERA/3.69 FIP but posted a mere 6.73 K/9 which is his lowest mark since 2014.

On the bright side, Keuchel’s groundball-rate was a stellar 53.7%, good for 8th-best in all of baseball. Obviously, that would play well in Yankee Stadium, which means it wouldn’t be shocking to hear if a possible deal is at least discussed this offseason between the Yankees and the left-hander.

5. Clayton Kershaw

First off, this is certainly the most unlikely of the five simply due to that it relies on the opt-out clause that looms in the seven-year-deal he signed prior to 2014. But if Clayton Kershaw does exercise that out clause and becomes a free agent this offseason, then its hard to imagine that the Yankees won’t be in on him.

Kershaw, 30, posted another sub 3.00 ERA season for the tenth straight season in 2018. However, the injury bug bit him once again as he made just 26 starts. Having not pitched a full season since 2015, the left-hander’s consistency with his health is a legitimate reason to be scared of handing him big money.

However, he’s arguably the best pitcher in all of baseball when on the field, making him a viable option to slot in as the Yankees ace and giving their starting staff a whole new level of depth and magnitude. Just imagine:

  1. Clayton Kershaw LHP
  2. Luis Severino RHP
  3. Masahiro Tanaka RHP
  4. TBD
  5. TBD

The idea of receiving 30-plus starts from the likes of Kershaw, Severino, and Tanaka is a salivating vision for fans who intend on seeing the Yankees finally take the AL East division title from the Red Sox in 2019.

Regardless of who it is, it’s borderline safe to say that one of these five will be a Yankee in 2019. Brian Cashman has already made it clear that pitching will be the main focus point heading into this offseason, and it’s no secret the Yankees will be cutting some hefty checks this winter.

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