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Analysis

Yankees: Keep An Eye On Zack Wheeler and Alex Wood

In the case where the Yankees miss out on Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, two names to still keep an eye on are Alex Wood and Zack Wheeler. 

In 2019, the Yankees most obvious weakness throughout the regular season and the playoffs was their starting pitching. It was not bad by any means, as James Paxton, Domingo German, and Masahiro Tanaka all turned in solid 2019 performances. However, the rotation faltered in the postseason, as Domingo German was suspended, and aside from Masahiro Tanaka and some solid performances from James Paxton, the rotation was not particularly good. With the Yankees being rumored to be top landing spots for top of the line starting pitchers Stephen Strasburg and Gerrit Cole on the free agent market, I think it is appropriate to look at other options, and solutions for the Yankees rotation for the 2020 season. Possibly Zack Wheeler and/or Alex Wood?

My first solution to the Yankees rotation issue is to have a six man rotation. This would allow more rest for taxed arms, give teams different looks, and would allow more room for injuries. With no additions, a Yankees potential six man rotation would look like (assuming Domingo German will be playing):

  1. RHP Luis Severino
  2. LHP James Paxton
  3. RHP Masahiro Tanaka
  4. RHP Domingo German
  5. LHP J.A. Happ
  6. RHP Jonathan Loasiga

However, I think there are a few under the radar starters the Yankees could target to solidify this rotation, as with German’s 2020 status uncertain, and J.A. Happ’s lack of consistency last season, the Yankees could use some insurance.

Assuming the Yankees cannot land Cole or Strasburg, a free agent starting pitcher Alex Wood could be a sneaky addition. It would be a low risk high reward scenario for the Yankees, as Wood won’t be demanding the amount of money that he would be if he was not an injury prone pitcher. In 2019, he only pitched in seven games. In 2018, Alex Wood’s season statistics read: 3.68 ERA, 3.53 FIP, 3.72 xFIP, 3.90 SIERA, 3.48 DRA, .245 xBA, .371 xSLG, .288 wOBA, .293 xwOBA, .342 xwOBACON, 21.2 K%, 33.5 Hard Hit%, 1.3 rWAR.

Yankees release OF Jacoby Ellsbury, DFA Greg Bird

These are all respectable statistics, especially for a pitcher that has sustainable production (-.005 wOBA – xwOBA) and for someone who will only demand around 7-10 Million Dollars AAV, which is more than affordable for Brian Cashman and the Yankees. With the potential addition of Wood, I would assume that J.A. Happ would be the odd man out of the rotation. This would make the Yankees rotation look like the following:

  1. RHP Luis Severino
  2. LHP James Paxton
  3. RHP Masahiro Tanaka
  4. RHP Domingo German
  5. LHP Alex Wood
  6. RHP Jonathan Loasiga

A less under the radar addition to the Yankees rotation would be RHP Zack Wheeler. Wheeler had a solid 2019, as his stats read: 3.96 ERA, 3.48 FIP, 4.08 xFIP, 4.20 SIERA, .311 BABIP, .250 xBA, .400 xSLG, .294 wOBA, .298 xwOBA, .367 xwOBACON, 3.67 pCRA, 123 pCRA+, 23.6 K%, 4.7 cWAR, 4.1 rWAR.

These statistics are beyond solid, backed by Wheeler’s electric fastball (13.1 Inches of drop, 10.5 inches of break), and a solid slider (26.2 inches of drop, 2.1 inches of break). Although I do not think a Wheeler signing would provide as much value as an Alex Wood signing, based off of the potential contracts, as I think Wheeler would be looking for around 15 Million Dollars AAV over 3-4 seasons. With the potential additions of Wheeler and Wood, I would assume that Jonathan Loasiga would return back to working out of the bullpen, thus a potential Six Man rotation would go as follows:

  1. RHP Luis Severino
  2. LHP James Paxton
  3. RHP Masahiro Tanaka
  4. RHP Zack Wheeler
  5. LHP Alex Wood
  6. RHP Domingo German

Ideally for the Yankees, they can land either Stephen Strasburg or Gerrit Cole, but with Hal Steinbrenner’s recent history of relatively bad contracts (e.g Jacoby Ellsbury), we have seen him act with more caution when entering the free agent market. 

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