There is a ton of chatter out there about the Yankees looking to acquire a starting pitcher. You’ve heard the names. Stroman. Bumgarner. Minor. Boyd… even Scherzer. The Yankees are certainly in need of starting pitching help. However, the reality is that after passing on Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel, there really isn’t much out there at the moment.
Starting Pitching Candidates
The Yankees don’t love Bumgarner, who pitches in the most pitcher friendly division in baseball and has been on the decline for a few years. Marcus Stroman? It’s tough to envision the Yankees trading Clint Frazier within the division, and the Blue Jays would instantly hang the phone up on Cashman without him involved. Max Scherzer is not going to be traded. Most of the mock “proposals” for Scherzer I’ve seen on Yankees Twitter would cause the Nationals to hang up the phone in less than five seconds.
Value Over Need
If you’ve been paying any attention at all to the Yankees over the past few years, you know that Brian Cashman doesn’t make moves solely on need. Cash looks for premium talent in any area he can find it at a good value. He traded for Aroldis Chapman when he had Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances. He traded for Giancarlo Stanton with Aaron Judge on the roster. And most recently, he traded for Edwin Encarnacion despite the immense amount of power the team possesses.
Even if the Yankees are already strong in a particular area, Cash won’t hesitate to double down and make it stronger. His line of thinking, combined with the current trade market, leads me to believe the Yankees would strongly consider trading for a high end bullpen piece. I’m not saying the Yanks won’t trade for a starter. They probably will. But it could very well be a Lance Lynn type; an innings eater, not a game changing ace. The Yankees have been linked to Indians pitchers Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer over the past nine months. But what if they traded for their reliever Brad Hand instead?
An Awesome But Imperfect Pen
It’s true, the Yankees bullpen has been elite this year. One of the main reasons the Yankees have been able to get by with suspect starting pitching has been the elite bullpen work. Adam Ottavino and Aroldis Chapman are locks for the All Star game. Zack Britton is also having a nice year, and Tommy Kahnle has rebounded well. There are warts, however. Jonathan Holder has been awful and was sent down on Monday. Ottavino and Britton are both on pace to pitch over 75 innings this year. Chapman has been the on the DL in each of the last two seasons. Dellin Betances is still feeling pain in his right shoulder and there is a very real possibility he won’t step on the mound at all this year.
It’s been well documented the that the starters have not been able give much length. Way too many three, four, and five inning starts have led to a ton of bullpen usage. This is the type of issue that tends to get exponentially worse as the season goes along. If Dellin doesn’t come back and Otto or Britton lose steam in the second half from their heavy workloads, the Yankees bullpen will suddenly be very vulnerable. This is where Hand comes in.
Hand has been the best reliever in baseball this year by far. In 33 innings of work, he has a 1.08 ERA and is striking out 13.2 hitters per nine innings. He is 22 for 22 in save opportunities, and has essentially been perfect in every aspect of pitching. At 29, he is in the middle of his prime and he’s also affordable. With a salary of just $6.5 million this year, the Yankees would owe him $3.2 million for the rest of this year, $7 million next year and $10 million in 2021. This is a bargain for the value that Hand provides.
While starting pitching is a priority, Brian Cashman needs to try and improve the club in any way he can. If a game changing reliever can be had for a smaller prospect cost than a starter, it must be considered. You can never have enough stud bullpen arms. With Dellin’s status up in the air, adding another high end reliever would make the Yankees that much more formidable come October.