“I’m interested in adding more than one pitcher. I need to, I think, add multiple. If I can do so, we’ll see.”
Brian Cashman made his intentions very clear this off-season. As soon as the Yankees were eliminated, he was banging the pitching drum. Pitching, pitching, pitching. The Yankees, as well as their fans, have long been enamored with free agent Patrick Corbin. A native of upstate New York, Corbin has made no secret of his fondness for the pinstripes. Last April, he opened up to Bob Nightengale with these telling words:
“It would definitely be great to play there,’’ Corbin says. “I grew up a Yankee fan. My whole family are Yankee fans. My mom, my dad, my grandpa, everybody. Really, every generation of my family has been Yankee fans.”
I actually met Corbin and his parents last summer in Philadelphia at a bar after a Phillies/Diamondbacks game. When I mentioned to Patrick that I was a Yankee fan, he immediately bought me a shot of Patron. Corbin is three years older than me, but we compared stories of watching the Jeter and Mariano teams growing up as kids before going our separate ways.
The feeling around the industry seems to be that the Yankees will sign one of Corbin/ J.A. Happ before moving onto other needs, but I believe the Yankees need to sign both pitchers if they are truly serious about upgrading the rotation to World Series caliber.
Everyone can interpret Cashman’s words differently, but when he said “add multiple starting pitchers,” I’m not counting pitchers that were already on the roster last season. Bringing back the same guys doesn’t equate to “adding” in my mind. Furthermore the inevitable Sonny Gray trade opens up another rotation spot. Bringing returning players like CC and Happ back is simply maintaining from last year, and then Corbin and James Paxton should be the “multiple starting pitchers” that Cashman adds.
Worried about a six man rotation? CC is going to need at least one DL stint for knee maintenance. Tanaka’s elbow is always a concern, and he missed a month last year. Domingo German had to make 14 starts last year because of all of the injuries, and his 5.57 ERA did not do the Yankees any favors. If the Yankees want to seriously contend for a World Series, they can’t have guys like Luis Cessa (five starts, 5.24 ERA) and German starting 20 games. Giving guys like that starting opportunities is essentially throwing away games, and the Yankees can’t be throwing away games when they play in the most competitive division in professional sports.
Happ and Corbin both offer exceptional value. Happ is playoff and A.L. East battle tested and showed he could handle New York last year. He is a consummate professional and gave the Yankees a chance to win every time he took the ball, pitching to a 2.69 ERA after he came over from Toronto. He’s 36, but as a guy who doesn’t rely on velocity, the Yankees should be comfortable giving him 50 million dollars over three years to pitch through his age 38 season.
Corbin is the best pitcher on the free agent market. He’s 29 and coming off of a year where he finished 5th in the NL Cy Young race, made the All-star team, and finished with a 3.15 ERA.
Furthermore, Corbin fared very well in many of the advanced analytical/statistical categories. He has a clean track record and as a lefty he is perfectly suited to neutralize the short porch at Yankee Stadium. He doesn’t have the same history of success as Happ, and he has had Tommy John surgery, so there is some risk involved. But Corbin only costs money, not prospects, which the Yankees have plenty of. Locking Corbin in at $135 million over six years is fair for both sides.
A six man rotation would allow extra rest for all of the starters when healthy, and would provide invaluable insurance whenever injury strikes. (Which it will.) The Yankees got under the luxury tax for a reason, and it gives them the flexibility to build a super rotation that smaller market teams simply can’t do.
If Cash and Hal are serious about building a World Series rotation, they will make serious attempts to sign both pitchers.