Not Too Late for the Yankees to Sign Starting Pitching Depth to Minor League Deals

Kyle LohseWith Yoenis Cespedes disappearing from the market late last night to the Mets, all of the “A-List” Free Agents are now unavailable. It was never realistic the Yankees were going to sign a Justin Upton, Chris Davis or David Price this year with barely any money coming off the books. Brian Cashman went as far as to say it was unrealistic the Yankees would make another MLB signing for the rest of the winter a few weeks ago.

But the Yankees still have problems.

They’re unlikely to sign the middle of the order bat they will need for the future with Brett Gardner likely staying put for now and Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez still under contract. So logically, the focus is still on pitching and covering up for a rotation devoid of reliability. While the Yankees have developed the deepest back end of the bullpen in baseball, it also has plenty of options to fill in the underbelly. The same luxury does not apply when it comes to the rotation. They have seven starters (counting Bryan Mitchell) under contract and none of them have the talent and/or track record to throw 200 quality innings.

To preserve its greatest strength, New York will need to help fix its greatest weakness. Here are four pitchers the Yankees may still target on minor league deals this winter. Players who are likely to only accept major league deals (Cliff Lee), who are simply not worth a spot on the 40 man (Tim Lincecum) or likely to retire (Tim Hudson, Mark Buehrle) were not included.

Aaron Harang: Turning 38 this season, Harang has started the past two years for bad teams in the NL in the Braves and Phillies. Relying on Harang as a starter in the AL East would be a bad idea. But signing him to depth on a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training? Not so bad of a plan.

Harang has thrown 376.2 innings the past two seasons, which surprisingly surpasses all Yankees’ options on the 40 man roster. Having a consistently healthy arm who has shown flashes of competence stored in AAA Scranton would be an excellent insurance policy and free up other arms for trades and relief.

Mike Minor: A little bit of a different approach to Harang, Minor has not thrown in the majors since 2014. He has just one year surpassing 200 innings and has never pitched away from Atlanta and a pitcher’s park. Still, Minor will be just 28 this season and represents a much higher ceiling with a much lower floor, but when discussing minor league deals, he’s the type of pitcher worth taking a flier on. Before his injury  issues, the righty threw to a 3.21 ERA in 204+ innings as recently as 2013 as a 25-year-old. Since the Yankees have plenty of arms who can give them 150+ innings, Minor could be the type of pitcher who can throw himself into an extension and replace Ivan Nova on the cheap when his contract expires at the end of the season.

Alfred Simon: Sort of an-inbetween option from Minor and Harang, Simon is more or less a work horse, tossing 383.2 innings his past two seasons, to mixed results. The 34-year-old has been plenty durable as a starter the past couple of years and may have plenty left in the tank for a pitcher who was a reliever for all but 2.5 MLB seasons total. However, New York has no idea if it would receive the 3.44 ERA and All Star, Alfredo Simon, or the pitcher who recorded a 5.05 ERA with Detroit last year. For a guy who pitches largely to contact, puts men on base and has a home run issue, it may be best to steer clear in Yankees’ Stadium, but he’s probably a better value add than at least one pitcher on the 40 man roster.

Kyle Lohse: After stringing together four consecutive solid seasons with St. Louis and Milwaukee, Lohse’s numbers exploded last season as a 36-year-old. Heading into 2015, Lohse had three consecutive seasons of 198+ innings and an ERA under 3.54 with a solid FIP (even with league adjustment is probably better than Nova and Sabathia) until a 5.85 ERA in 152.1 innings last season. Lohse surrendered 29 HR and his BB/9 raised by half a walk raising his WHIP over .30 in a disasterous outcome. However, if the Yankees believe Lohse can recover and revert back to his numbers before 2015, he could be an excellent buy low candidate the Yankees can easily let go or DFA if the team is healthy say, by the end of May.

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