It’s a yearly summer tradition to ponder starting pitching options for the Yankees. Luis Severino’s setback and Corey Kluber’s injury. While I definitely believe the Yankees need a centerfielder at the deadline, a starter is a need as well. Jameson Taillon has yet to show the promise we saw early on, with an above-5 SIERA in his last 5 outings, and Michael King is a reliever. If the Yankees want to improve the rotation this deadline, there’s not a ton of options to look for, but there are certainly some solid ones.
Middle of the Rotation Arm: Yusei Kikuchi
Yusei Kikuchi is breaking out with a 90 ERA-, 3.71 SIERA, and 31.5% CSW% on the season. He isn’t an elite pitcher and certainly is high risk he was a 122 ERA- and 4.98 SIERA pitcher before, but an uptick in velocity has turned him into a pretty good pitcher. He could really fill in nicely as a 3 starter for now, and as a 4 or 5 in October. His Steamer ERA projects him to have a 3.69 ERA on the year. This isn’t a massive move that blows the socks off of the fanbase, but could potentially be like the 2018 Nathan Eovaldi deal for the Red Sox, where he played a vital role as that depth starter/swingman in the postseason.
He’s due $14 million this season, so by chipping in some lower-level prospects, the Mariners could foot the bill on some of this year’s salary, and the Yankees can get an affordable starter with very high upside.
Buy Low On A Good Starter: Kenta Maeda
The Minnesota Twins are in the midst of a lost season, and Kenta Maeda could be someone they deal. Maeda’s had a rough 2021, so I’d wait to see how he does as the season progresses before I say this is a good idea. He has a sparkling 2020, posting a 2.92 SIERA and 60 ERA-, truly a spectacular year. Not only is he on a super team-friendly deal ($3.3 million AAV) but from 2018-2020 he showed his merit as a pretty dependable starter, with a 3.70 ERA, 3.61 SIERA, and a 31.5% CSW%. Now his poor play so far could deter the Twins from moving him, but if he’s available and he’s heating up, the Yankees should pounce on this.
Maeda would be probably worth at least one 50 FV prospect alongside some lower-level talent, as he’s on a stupidly cheap contract. When he’s at his best, he’s someone who can be a real impact player, something that could entice the Yankees starting pitching needs.
High Price High Upside: Jose Berrios
Sticking with the miserable Minnesota Twins, 27-year old RHP Jose Berrios could be available and could be a great addition. His peripherals since 2018 aren’t the greatest at a 4.02 SIERA, he’s shown to be able to consistently overperform them. Since 2018 he ranks 26th in ERA- with an 84 and has the 16th best exit velocity against. He has a phenomenal sinker and curveball, as he’s 9th in Run-Value on his sinker and the 23rd in Run-Value on his curveball this year. Berrios’ 4-seamer in years past was good but in the last two has been terrible, but what could entice the Yankees is a changeup that hasn’t necessarily been there for him.
Matt Blake has successfully turned guys like Domingo German and Jonathan Loaisiga (who live down in the zone) into significantly better pitchers with an improved changeup. If Berrios can use that changeup to mirror with his sinker alongside his curveball the Yankees can turn a top 25-30 starter into one of the 15 or so best starters in the game. With 2 years of control, he should demand a pretty solid price, but that could be completely worth it as he’s in the middle of a year with a 3.48 ERA and 3.61 SIERA with room to grow.
Max Scherzer is obviously the best pitcher available, but everyone knows that. Highlighting options that aren’t Scherzer is important, especially with the looming luxury tax and the need for a centerfielder.
They could set themselves up to have their best shot at a title, but it starts with the starting pitching for the Yankees.