The Major League Baseball season continues on with the New York Yankees atop of the AL East and looking like strong contenders to finally make the World Series after a few years of near misses.
It looks as if the Yankees, and Brian Cashman, have finally found the right balance of what they want. In 2017 it was a lack of experience that cost them against the Houston Astros. In 2018, it was a lack of cohesion and it didn’t seem like the right team for a title challenge.
So far in 2019, it looks as if there is a mix of both. The key players in the club have been to the ALCS/ALDS and know what needs to be done in order to get them over the line and the newer players like Gio Urshela, Luke Voit and DJ LeMahieu (these guys aren’t exactly young, but they’re three of the newer players in this Yankee set up) have the same enthusiasm and gusto that Didi Gregorius, Aaron Judge and some of the younger Yankees had back in 2017.
There is a hope that this team can, at the very least, reach the World Series and take on anyone who they come up against but while the batting and the run scoring seems to be in a very good place – especially with Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge coming back to fitness and the trade of Edwin Encarnacion meaning that Murderer’s Row 2.0 is back on – but if there was one thing you could point at and identify as the area to improve on, it is the starting rotation.
The batting is as good as it can possibly be, the bullpen is arguably the best in baseball but the starting rotation is… just missing that one special piece.
Now, that isn’t to say that it’s a terrible rotation. C.C. Sabathia is a reliable legend who will have a fire in his belly about going out with another ring with the Yankees, J.A. Happ is another veteran who knows this might be his last realistic chance at glory, Masahiro Tanaka blows hot and cold but has the potential to strike the entire side out (equally, he has the same potential to blow a lead or deliver easy pitches on a platter to batters), James Paxton is outstanding when’s healthy and Luis Severino may come back from his injury better than ever. But the fact that there are question marks over some of these guys is a concern. It isn’t the end of the world, but it is something that needs to be addressed.
Look at the Chicago Cubs in 2016, the Houston Astros in 2017 and the Boston Red Sox in 2018 (even the Cleveland Indians and Los Angeles Dodgers from the same years) and what do they have in common? They all had pitchers who could be considered aces. The Cubs had Jon Lester while the Indians had Kluber/Carrasco/Bauer. The Astros had Justin Verlander, the Dodgers had Clayton Kershaw and the Red Sox had Chris Sale.
All of these pitchers had the ability to put their team on their backs during their starts and try to carry their teams to glory, so where is that in the starting rotation for the Yankees? Severino could be an ace in the future, but right now? Maybe not. Happ and Sabathia? Reliable, but not aces. Same goes for Tanaka and Paxton is very good, but not quite good enough to be considered an ace which, of course, means the Yanks need to delve into the trade market again, the same as they did last season.
Last season they picked up Happ when Bumgarner was on the table and seemingly MadBum is on the table once again. They’ve been linked with Bumgarner, Matthew Boyd of the Tigers, Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez of the Blue Jays and Zach Wheeler of the Mets but the one pitcher they have to try to get, by almost any means necessary, is Max Scherzer.
I know, I know. It would nearly be impossible to pry him away from the Nationals because he’s – arguably – the best pitcher in baseball. But if you’re the Yankees, you’ve got to hope for one thing. You’ve got to hope that the Nats keep slipping and sliding and fall out of playoff contention, forcing them into picking up a few prospects for the future instead of relying on what they have now. What about his contract? Won’t that affect the Yankees staying under the luxury tax threshold? I’ll let Ken Rosenthal explain…
“The massive deferrals in Scherzer’s contract reduce the amount he will be paid in the near term, potentially increasing his appeal to both big spenders and small. Scherzer is owed the second $7.5 million portion of a $15 million payout for this season, plus $15 million in both 2020 and ‘21. He will receive additional $15 million payments, deferred without interest, from ‘22 to ’28.
“The unique structure of Scherzer’s contract would not help clubs trying to stay under the luxury-tax threshold – his annual charge, based on the average salary in his seven-year, $210 million contract with the Nationals, is $30 million. The Nats, however, could lower that number by including cash in a trade, reducing the financial burden for a prospective suitor in exchange for a better return.”
If this happens, and it’s a big if, the Yankees should throw whatever they reasonable can to bring Scherzer to the Bronx.
I’m not talking about Gleyber Torres, or Miguel Andujar, but some younger talent who have had a taste of the Major Leagues with the Yankees, but not important assets to the club. I’m talking about Clint Frazier – who is seemingly out on his backside after refusing to speak to the media following his error ridden outing against the Red Sox, and being replaced in the pecking order (and fans’ hearts) by Cameron Maybin – and Thairo Estrada – the second baseman who has a bright future ahead of him whoever he plays for, but not talented enough to dethrone Gleyber Torres from the position. Two or three top prospects (throw in one of Clarke Schmidt or Deivi Garcia to sweeten the pot) and it’ll be a tough deal for the Nats to turn down. If they want more, maybe the Yankees can offer someone else lower down their farm system but no one that will come back to bite them in the future but the point is, the Yankees can 100% get this deal done.
It’s also a massive bonus that Scherzer has a contract until 2022 and the Yankees can have more control over him than someone like Bumgarner, who’s a free agent this coming offseason, and for anyone who is concerned about the Yanks going over the tax threshold, so what?! Sometimes, it’s what you need to do in order to win and to be the best.
I’m sure Astros fans were worried about overspending when they got Verlander but I bet they weren’t complaining when he was pitching in the World Series? Same with the Cubs when they traded for Aroldis Chapman (ironically, the same trade that saw Torres turn up in New York), so sometimes the deals need to be made to take that extra step. Will the Nats drive a hard bargain for Scherzer? Absolutely, you’d be stupid to assume otherwise, but Cashman will know this. He will know what needs to be done, because no one in MLB is better than Brian Cashman. One way or another, the Yankees will have added arms in their rotation and all signs point towards it being Scherzer. History tells us that trading for an ace brings you glory and the future… well, if all goes to plan we all know what the future will bring. It’ll bring championship number 28 to the Bronx.