Are The Wheels Coming Off?
After a mightily impressive start to the season, the New York Yankees’ rotation has begun to suffer a decrease in production. In Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes and Jameson Taillon, the Yankees have a strong trio to lead the rotation. However, Domingo German and Jordan Montgomery are far less dependable on the mound, with the former certainly being unsuitable for playoff baseball. Luis Severino experiencing yet another Lat strain suggests he may be more effective as a long reliever on a lower pitch count than as a starter. Thus, one can see that the Yankees certainly have a need for any help they can get in the starting rotation, particularly if they want to make a push toward a World Series ring.
The primary targets for a team such as the Yankees will undoubtedly be the best pitchers available. Names that have been thrown around by fans, as of right now, are Frankie Montas of the Oakland Athletics and Luis Castillo of the Cincinnati Reds. However, given the situation in Miami, a slightly under-the-radar acquisition would be Pablo López.
When looking at Luis Castillo, he is the best of the three targets in terms of ability. His 77th percentile xERA and 82nd percentile barrel % against highlight that he is effective in limiting high-quality contact. In addition, he is under team control until 2023 meaning, if the Yankees fail to win it all this year, he can be a valuable piece in their 2023 rotation. In addition to this, he would likely slot in behind Cole as the second-best pitcher in the rotation, taking some pressure off of Nestor Cortes come playoff time.
Frankie Montas is an interesting player. He has generated a high degree of media hype surrounding his future despite his abilities only slightly exceeding that of the average starting pitcher. The 2021 and 2022 seasons have seen him produce 3.98 and 3.71 xERAs respectively. With these figures, he could be an effective 4th or 5th starter within the Yankees rotation but nothing more, given the successes of Taillon and Cortes this season. He is indubitably an upgrade on German, yet his price may be too high for a trade to be rational.
Pablo López, in a similar sense to Cortes, has been effective without electric stuff. Despite his fastball having a velocity in the 26th percentile and spin rate in the 34th percentile, he has been able to become a strong starter. His 80th percentile whiff% and 86th percentile chase rate show that he can keep contact to a minimum. This overall results in an xERA and xWOBA in the 61st percentile, showing he can easily be the third-best pitcher in the Yankee rotation if they were to acquire him. Furthermore, he is under team control through 2025, demonstrating how he can be an effective piece in the rotation for years to come.
Arguably the best trade for the Yankees involves Pablo López. As stated prior, the Marlins will likely be sellers at the deadline. In addition, the higher demand for Castillo may lead to the Yankees having to overpay to acquire him. Concerning Frankie Montas, he is slightly overrated by fans. He hits free agency in 2023 and as shown in the previous segment, he is only a touch above average.
The Andrew Benintendi deal was a cheap one for the Yankees meaning that they still hold valuable prospects which they could use to acquire López. As well as López, Joey Wendle represents an interesting proposition for the Yankees. On the offensive side, his .300 xWOBA is only .010 higher than Isiah Kiner-Falefa‘s. However, he is a far better defensive shortstop, with an outs above average in the 84th percentile compared to IKF, who is in the 18th percentile. Additionally, he provides valuable playoff experience as a former member of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Given the “anyone but Sandy Alcantara approach” the Marlins have stated they’re taking towards the deadline, it would likely not be as costly a trade as many would imagine to acquire both Wendle and Lopez. One or two top 10 prospects alongside some slightly higher such as Oswaldo Cabrera or Brock Selvidge would fit this.
When looking at Castillo, the high demand and higher production levels mean the Yankees will likely have to give up far more to acquire him than Lopez. Multiple top-10 prospects such as Jasson Dominguez, Oswald Peraza, Ken Waldichuk or Trey Sweeney will be needed to be exchanged to add the Dominican Flamethrower to their rotation.
Given the strength of the Yankees’ line-up this year and their stellar win-loss record, it is likely that Brian Cashman will take an all-in approach towards the trade deadline. This is arguably the best chance the Yankees have had to win the World Series in over a decade. Furthermore, their stacked farm system gives them the ability to make trades prioritizing the now while not entirely sacrificing the franchise’s future.
Given the strength of the Yankee’s rotation, an improvement would be welcomed but is not imperative. However, to maximise their World Series prospects, another starter certainly wouldn’t hurt.