Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco, top, delivers to Kansas City Royals' Whit Merrifield in the first inning in a baseball game Sunday, July 26, 2020, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Free agency this year features a ton of intriguing options on the pitching side. Trevor Bauer, Liam Hendriks, Masahiro Tanaka, Charlie Morton and Jose Quintana headline the free agency class.
Tanaka, James Paxton and J.A Happ are all free agents this winter. And with Luis Severino coming back from Tommy John, Domingo German returning from his suspension and the youth in the back of the rotation — not to mention the issues the bullpen faced this year — the Yankees once again need to make pitching a priority this offseason.
They can look at free agents, but there are plenty of pitchers who may be available for the right price. They have shown that they are willing to trade for pitchers in recent years. They’ve made moves for Paxton, Lance Lynn and Zack Britton in the past few years alone. The Yankees have plenty of expendable pieces and trading for a pitcher can help them avoid cutting a much larger check to a pitcher in free agency.
The first option, Carlos Carrasco actually makes a lot of sense for the Yankees. The 33 year old has three years and $38 million remaining on his contract. However, he has a vesting option in the third year which becomes guaranteed if he pitches at least 170 innings in 2022.
After missing time in 2019 due to his diagnosis of chronic myeloid leukemia, he returned to the rotation in 2020. He impressed with a 2.91 ERA and 1.5 WAR in 68 innings pitched. For comparison, Gerrit Cole had a 2.84 ERA and 1.4 WAR in 73 innings pitched last season.
Given his age and money remaining on his contract, the Yankees could get him fairly cheap. Considering the direction the Indians are treading with cutting payroll, it would make sense for them to want to move on from him. Carrasco is the highest paid pitcher on the team as well as the oldest. Taking on his contract could prove to be a bargain compared to many pitchers on the market this offseason. He can make a major impact on the rotation and be a viable two or three starter for them.
After a disappointing second half of 2018 with the Yankees, Lance Lynn has bounced back the past two years. He signed a three year $30 million contract with the Rangers during the 2018 offseason. In 2019, he exceeded over 200 innings pitched for the first time since 2014 while posting a 3.67 ERA, 6.8 WAR and a 1.22 WHIP. In the shortened 2020 season, he picked up where he left off in 2019 posting a 3.32 ERA with a 1.5 WAR and a 1.06 WHIP.
Lynn is entering the final year of his three year deal with Texas and is due $8 million this year. Texas is still far away from being a contender again, so it makes the most sense for them to move on from him this offseason. Keeping him on the team will not benefit him or the team too much. In the last year of his contract, the asking price for Lynn should not be too steep. If the Yankees are willing to give him another chance in New York, they should certainly pursue him.
The rumors surrounding Hader’s future in Milwaukee have circulated for years and the Yankees always seemed to be involved. The star reliever has three years of arbitration left before he hits free agency so the asking price for him will be steep.
Hader has been one of the most dominant relievers in baseball since he arrived to the majors in 2017. He missed a chunk of 2020, but in 2019, he was one of the best relievers in the league. In 75.2 innings, he had a 2.62 ERA and 2.3 WAR as well as a 0.81 WHIP, which led the league amongst all relievers in 2019. Also, his batting average against hitters was also the second best in the league at .155.
The Brewers have already stated that they will listen to offers for Hader. The Brewers will be prioritizing offense this offseason and the Yankees have a surplus of batters that would intrigue the Brewers. The asking price will be very high, but very much worth the return. They could potentially have Chad Green in the 6th, Britton in the 7th, then Hader and Chapman to get the final six outs. That’s a bullpen no team would want to face.