Adding Corey Kluber to the rotation was a move the Yankees needed to make. Honestly, any pitcher could have been added and that sentence would still apply, as New York’s starting rotation after Gerrit Cole has been one giant question mark up until this point.
Kluber’s signing is only a start to ironing out what Aaron Boone’s rotation will look like for 2021. With James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka and J.A. Happ hitting free agency this year, three spots remain behind Cole and Kluber. One would think Jordan Montgomery is a shoo-in for one of them, so let’s just say two are totally up for grabs come Spring Training.
There has been some speculation that the Yankees can continue to get someone on the free agent market to better equip them for 2021. Paxton and Tanaka, for instance, are still out there for the taking, although there is a real possibility Tanaka finds himself returning to Japan to pitch on a more lucrative deal. New York is also expected to have around $6 million left before they hit the $210 luxury tax threshold for the season.
GM Brian Cashman was trying to stay under that mark this season, but he may be inclined to break over it just a bit to land a pitching on a short-term deal.
Or he could go with this option: Trust the young guns.
The Yankees have a plethora of young talent waiting to get consistent time in the big leagues. It was on display last season, when the likes of Deivi Garcia, Michael King and Clarke Schmidt had some success in the shortened 2020 campaign.
With Domingo German also added to this group – he’s returning from an MLB suspension for violating the league’s domestic violence policy – the Yankees have the talent to go into the season and test the waters, so to speak, with who they currently have on the 40-man.
Garcia, in particular, was one that impressed in 2020. He had a 4.98 ERA over six starts, but the confidence and the stuff are certainly there and he received praise from Boone as well as teammates for his play. But he’s only 21 years old and the Yanks may want him to continue getting work down in the minor leagues before he is a mainstay with the big club.
How about the 26-year-old King and 24-year-old Schmidt? They were both primed to be contributors in a full season, especially Schmidt who was the second-best prospect in the team’s farm system entering 2020. Both pitchers struggled — Schmidt owned a 7.11 ERA in three games, while King had a 7.76 ERA – but were highly competitive in summer camp, which is why they were called up in the first place.
Either way, the Yankees have been molding these talented, young pitchers for quite some time and it may be worth the risk to at least see what they can do to start the season. Who knows what consistent starts could do for one of these pitchers once they settle in?
The experiment might not have to be too long, too. Luis Severino could be back to his old form once his Tommy John surgery rehab is complete, and that would mean a potential mid-season rotation could look like this: Cole, Kluber, Severino, Montgomery and German. Boone definitely can’t hate reading that list, but if it doesn’t pan out that way, having Garcia or King or Schmidt filled into one of those spots wouldn’t be too bad either.
The Yankees could get a Jose Quintana, or maybe figure out a way to re-sign Paxton or Tanaka. But it isn’t necessary when the talent is there in the farm system waiting to go. Trust the player development and give these pitchers a shot to prove why they remain at the top of the prospect list each year.