The Yankees are seeking quality starting pitchers. It’s no secret. They currently possess a collection of arms that would, barring a complete meltdown, get them through the regular season and into the postseason. However, they just don’t want to get in – they want to do all they can to avoid the do-or-die Wild Card game for a second consecutive year. The potential of facing James Paxton or any other team’s top pitcher in a game like that is not appealing.
Currently, three of the five pitchers who were envisioned to be part of the starting rotation are currently healthy: Luis Severino, CC Sabathia, and Sonny Gray. The back two spots are being held down by rookies Domingo German and Jonathan Loaisiga. While they have performed admirably to this point, they do not possess the postseason experience nor general track record that a team in the Yankees’ position would like moving forward.
The rotation has actually been at the top of the American League in many categories over the past few weeks, however continuing that performance is an awful lot to ask from a rotation that features a soon-to-be 38-year-old Sabathia and two rookies.
Two frequently talked about trade targets for the Yankees are Cole Hamels of the Texas Rangers and J.A. Happ of the Toronto Blue Jays. What do both have in common right off the bat? They are both lefties. That feature could be intriguing to Brian Cashman as the team that the Yankees are duking it out with for the division title, the Red Sox, are only hit .236 as a team against lefties (18th in the league) with an OPS of .669 (27th). On top of that, their strikeout rate against lefties this season is the fourth highest in the MLB at 24.9 percent.
But besides that, Hamels and Happ both bring postseason experience. Happ has pitched to a 3.72 ERA in 19.1 innings pitched over postseason appearances with the Phillies and the Blue Jays. Hamels has dabbled in October much more, having accumulated 98.1 innings pitched with a 3.48 ERA. While German and Loaisiga can be serviceable for the rest of the regular season, wouldn’t it be nice to have someone who you could pencil in for a quality start in a playoff game?
There’s no doubt that the Yankees would make the postseason with their current roster, even with Masahiro Tanaka on the disabled list. Their offense is too good, and as aforementioned, the back end of the rotation anchored right now by rookies can succeed. But what comes after game 162 is a different animal. Would you feel comfortable with German going up against Lance McCullers in a Game 4 down 2-1 in the series? Now, while German and Loaisiga can get the Yankees to the playoffs, that not the only thing the Yankees want. They want to win the division and avoid the Wild Card game.
To wrap up, Yankees fans, of course, would want an acquisition to do well against the Red Sox. Here are how Hamels and Happ have fared against our archrivals:
Those numbers are pretty good, and fans would sure welcome those performances against the team they are battling the division title for.
Hamels and Happ appear to be two of the best starting pitchers available on a relatively thin trade market. Because of their age (Hamels 34, Happ 35) and the fact that both will be free agents at the end of the season, they should not cost a boatload of quality pieces to acquire. So while Domingo German and Jonathan Loaisiga have flashed potential in their limited showings in 2018, Hamels or Happ could be a piece that truly puts the Yankees over the top.