Previously, we reviewed the Yankees’ outfield, which was a little less straightforward than a mostly set in stone infield. Brett Gardner could be traded, Aaron Hicks could get promoted, Aaron Judge could pan out and any of the three could alter the Yankees’ plans a year from now. Now we take a look at the Yankees’ pitching staff, which is likely just as clouded in possibilities with a much higher impact in store for both the youth movement and fate of the franchise over the next few years. Here are the major players for the starting rotation:
Rotation: Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, Luis Severino, Ivan Nova, Nathan Eovaldi, FA/Trade
Masahiro Tanaka – At the age of 27 and under team control through 2020, one would think Tanaka would be an ideal cornerstone of the future. Unfortunately, with an opt-out after 2017 and a tear in his elbow, it seems the Yankees are likely to get screwed one way or another. There are a few directions Tanaka’s career can go and ironically the only one beneficial to the Yankees is if he remains more the pitcher we saw in 2015 than the ace we witnessed his rookie year in 2014. If Tanaka pitches like an ace, he’s likely to pursue something longer than the three years-67 million the Yankees would still owe him to that point, will opt out and New York will benefit from nothing more than an extra pick headed into 2018. If he does have the Tommy John everyone fears, depending on when it happens, the Yankees might have an ace heading into his 30’s with a few years left, or something much worse. If he turns into something like a solid third starter the Yankees originally claimed to peg him to be, his salary may actually fall in line from inflation and he may choose to stay with the team.
Michael Pineda– If Pineda has a plan beyond 2017 with the Yankees, it will mean two years of health and effectiveness, starting in April. He’s young, throws hard and has experience in the Bronx, but Pineda has never turned into the consistent, front-end arm some might have expected. Suffice it to say if he develops into one, then the Yankees will be all over signing a 27-year-old with a lot of spare cash by the end of 2017.
CC Sabathia – Nothing to see here. Sabathia’s best moments for the Yankees came and gone and though he will likely have to have a role here this season and next season, by 2018 he will be parlayed into something much more effective, such as someone to replace him and Pineda in the rotation, bringing the average age of the team down a couple of years in the process.
Luis Severino – Likely to have a role in the rotation for years to come. The Yankees refused to trade him and with good reason, Severino had an excellent start to his MLB career, throwing in 11 starts in August and September last year. In a worst case scenario, it’s plausible New York will have nobody besides Severino currently in its rotation by 2018, but they can count on six years of control for the 21-year-old, who will be turning 23 during the 2018 season when the majority of the team will be in its mid to late 20’s.
Nathan Eovaldi – He was likely to start the wildcard play-in game at one point. That’s how good he looked the second half of the year before Eovaldi hurt himself and was shut down for the year. With no repercussions expected, Eovaldi should be poised to turn a corner on his career in 2016 and will be under team control in 2017. What the Yankees do between now and then remains to be seen, but if they do hold onto Eovaldi, he will be 27-years-old going into 2018.
Ivan Nova – Not much to say, he will try to regenerate some trade value after a dismal 2015 campaign and is unlikely to be retained after 2016. Along with Brett Gardner and Andrew Miller, Nova is a trade option should be prove he can garner a return.
Free Agent/Trade – This should be included because it’s very unlikely the Yankees won’t add some sort of starter to the rotation via free agency from now through 2017. The Yankees should have over $50 million in payroll to work with in departing contracts over the next two years, they have numerous injury risks and no real ace to count on. We don’t know exactly who will be out there quite yet over the next two winters (or if they break down and sign someone like Wei Yei Chen this winter), but we can expect the Yankees to be players in the “ace” market over the next 2-3 years until they find the right deal. And if that doesn’t pan out, an assortment of options between: Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Andrew Miller, Brett Gardner, and Julio Mateo can garner an ace back in return to say nothing of prospects who could emerge over the same time frame.