…not a belly itcher. One of the worst chants of all time…but the Yankees do indeed need a pitcher..or two..or three. Both the starting rotation and bullpen need to be bolstered if the Yankees are to remain in the AL East and wild card races.
Help Wanted: Starting Pitcher
Much of the trade rumor talk has centered around the Chicago White Sox’ Jose Quintana , but as our own Tom Hanslin provided in Jon Heyman’s latest Quintana rumors on Monday, the White Sox are asking for too much in return. With every team in baseball in need of starting pitching, the White Sox find themselves in a great position. However, they can’t reasonably expect to get back anything in return close to what they received from Boston for Chris Sale during this past offseason.
Quintana, who was in the Mets’ and Yankees’ organizations prior to signing with Chicago in 2011, is being paid an incredibly reasonable price for today’s market. He’s due to make $8.85MM next season and there are club options for $10.5MM and $11.5MM for 2019-2020. With Quintana under team control for the next three seasons, it’s understandable that the White Sox are looking for a substantial return.
Inside Quintana’s Numbers
The 28-yr old left-hander is durable…he’s thrown 200+ innings in each of the past four seasons, with a slight increase in his workload from year to year. Quintana averaged 7.7 K/9 IP during that stretch and has increased to a career high 9.4 K/9 IP this season. However, due to a slow start, his statistics aren’t impressive this season.
He’s walking a career-high 3.5 batters/9 IP after having never reached 3.0 before. His iffy control is also showing in the seven wild pitches he’s thrown in 18 starts. His career best, or worst depending on how you look at it, is 10 wild pitches in 32 starts. His Batting Average on Balls in Play (baBIP) is .301, which is comparable to his previous seasons.
For the most part, Quintana’s struggles this year have taken place in his home ballpark. While holding opponents to a .676 OPS on the road, he’s getting knocked around to the tune of an .814 OPS at his own Guaranteed Rate Field. His ERA is also a full point higher at home than on the road.
He appeared to turn things around in June when he posted a 1.78 ERA in six starts and struck out 8.9 batters/9 IP, but didn’t make it past 5.1 innings pitched in his two starts in July.
The White Sox really have no real imperative to deal him other than the worry that if his numbers continue to suffer, his value will diminish. Oakland’s Sonny Gray also falls under this category, with the A’s having control of him through 2019.
Verlander: The Expensive Solution
A couple of years ago, it appeared that the career of Detroit’s Justin Verlander might be on the downside. Then he nearly won the AL Cy Young Award last season, narrowly beaten out by former teammate Rick Porcello. Some thought he deserved it, particularly his fiancee, Kate Upton.
Verlander’s 2017 season hasn’t been as strong or as consistent. The biggest issue for the Tigers, however, is the $56MM he’s guaranteed over the next two seasons and the $22MM vesting option for 2020 that will kick in if he finishes in the Top-5 Cy Young voting in 2019.
The amount of money changing hands in a deal for the 2011 AL Cy Young/MVP winner will determine the level of prospects the Tigers will receive in return for Verlander. The number of teams that would/could be willing to pick up a large chunk of change can be counted on one hand (not to mention having a player with over 2,500 IP for two more years). And, the Yankees will not be one of them.
Let the buyer beware…Verlander has walked a league-high 51 hitters after issuing just 57 free passes for the entire 2016 season.
The Marco Estrada Song
♫ “If you like Marco Estrada and getting caught in the rain…” (Don’t worry, Toronto has a dome).
There may come a time prior to the deadline when Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins decides to move pending free agent, Marco Estrada. That’s supposing that Atkins isn’t already fielding and/or making calls about his right-hander.
After muddling through a combined seven years with the Nationals and Brewers, Estrada had, arguably, the best two seasons of his career over the last two years with Toronto. But, this season has been entirely different matter. Estrada doesn’t have the value he once did due to a career-worst ERA (5.17) and WHIP (1.436).
For the first time in his career, Estrada has allowed more hits than innings pitched and has issued a career-worst 3.5 BB/9 IP. So while Estrada may come cheaply, is he better than what the Yankees already have on their roster or farm system (ex. Luis Cessa, Chance Adams, etc.)? Probably not. At least not the way he’s pitching right now – he’s allowed 34 earned runs allowed in his last 32.2 IP. There are a number of pitchers on the market that fall into this category, including veterans Jaime Garcia and Derek Holland.
Darvish: The Hired Gun
Yu Darvish is one of the best starting pitchers in baseball and will be a free agent after this season. Still working his way back from Tommy John surgery (he missed all of 2015 and part of 2016), Darvish may not be back to his old self, but he’s getting there.
Both before the injury and in his 2016 return, Darvish averaged over 11 K’s/9 IP. While he’s down a couple of strikeouts, he’s still allowed less than three earned runs in 11 of his 19 starts and he has given up three earned runs or less in 15 starts. Texas will want plenty back in return after giving up prospects last season for Carlos Beltran and Jonathan Lucroy.
Like most teams, pitching prospects will be what Texas will be demanding in return for pitching. So, unless you are a team that is a player or two away from winning it all, Darvish is not the guy to go after. Again, that includes the Yankees. Their pre-All-Star-break slide showed as much. The team is ahead of schedule in rebuilding/re-tooling, but shouldn’t trade valuable chips this season in an attempt to win it all.
Feldman: Throwing in the Towel
With the Cincinnati Reds entering the All-Star break 10 games under .500 and in last place in the NL Central, it would come as no surprise if the Reds traded away some of their more productive players. Chief among them is starting pitcher Scott Feldman. The right-hander has been two different pitchers on the road and at home this season.
Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park has allowed the 13th-most runs in Major League Baseball, yet Feldman has fashioned a 3.00 ERA at home. But, the road has posed a problem for the 34-year old, with more hits allowed than innings pitched and a 4.48 ERA.
A major drawback for a Feldman-to-the-Yankees scenario is that he has appeared in 336 AL games, compared to only 33 in the NL. As you might imagine, his best years have come in his two stints in the NL, part of 2013 with the Cubs and this season. It’s no surprise that Feldman’s numbers weren’t nearly as good in the AL, where he had to face nine professional hitters instead of eight.
After averaging $10MM for the previous three seasons, Feldman is earning just $2.3MM this season. With a low salary, he could probably be had for the remainder of his salary and a middle-level prospect.
The Yankees Have Traded For…
What to do? What to do? There’s no reason to doubt that Brian Cashman is being truthful when he says he will not trade the Yankees’ top prospects. Nor should he, considering this team isn’t on the brink of a World Series title. But, a push for the playoffs and more than just a wild card game could be accomplished.
It will disappoint many Yankee fans, but Feldman and pitchers of his ilk are more likely to be the type of pitcher that Cashman will pursue. A Quintana deal will only happen if the White Sox lower their asking price.
With injuries testing the depth of the team and the need to bolster first base and the bullpen as well, Cashman knows he has to hold on to his best trade chips.