The Yankees might have re-signed CC Sabathia to hold down the back-end of their rotation, but the club has very clearly indicated they will vastly improve the starting rotation. Let's rank, in reverse order, the top six pitchers said to be on the Yankees' radar on the free agent and trade markets...
No. 6 - Nathan Eovaldi
Eovaldi coming back to New York making $15 million or so per season would be quite the turnaround for the right-hander after spending two up-and-down years with them. The Yanks did not want to tie themselves to Eovaldi as he recuperated from his second Tommy John surgery and they might rue the day that decision was made as they could have used his services this past season.
Eovaldi had a solid 2018 - 3.81 ERA (3.60 FIP), 1.12 WHIP and 8.2 K/9 rate in 111 innings -- but he excelled in the playoffs, which certainly enhanced his vale. The issue with Eovaldi will always be the chance that his twice-reconstructed elbow will not hold up through the duration of a three or four-year deal, which puts him sixth on this list.
No. 5 - James Paxton
The Mariners are making the left-hander available and the Yankees have expressed early interest. Paxton, who just turned 30, would surely fit into the Yankee Stadium mold.
He is coming off a career-high in innings worked, but the number (160.1 innings) is still quite low for a frontline starter. Paxton owns a career 3.42 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 9.5 K/9 rate (career-high 11.7 in 2018).
The issue for the Yankees will be the number of players they would have to give up for Paxton, who the Mariners will likely tout as an ace. Paxton is set to earn approximately $9 million in arbitration (per MLB Trade Rumors) and does not hit free agency until after next season, so the money surely fits.
No. 4 - J.A. Happ
How about this left-hander that was the most consistent Yankees starter from the moment he donned pinstripes?
Happ went 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA and 1.05 WHIP with the Yankees across 63.2 innings to help the Yankees into the playoffs. He also increased his strikeout rate to a career-high 9.8 mark in 2018.
Happ, 36, will likely secure a two or three-year deal with an average annual value of about $15 million. He would slot in nicely as a No. 4 starter and the Yankees would not have to utilize anything but cash to secure his services. As with Sabathia, Happ would be a known commodity.
No. 3 - Carlos Carrasco
Moving into stud territory, we come to the first of Cleveland's reportedly available starting pitchers. Carrasco has long been on the Yankees' radar, but the chance that he's on the trade market could finally match New York with one of the better right-handers in the game.
At 32 years old next season, Carrasco is set to earn just $9 million in 2019 and carries a $9.5 million option for 2020, which will be alluring numbers for the Yankees considering he carries the expected production of a $20-million per year pitcher.
Carrasco has been healthy for the last two seasons, averaging 31 starts and 196 innings. He is also extremely consistent, posting ERA marks between 3.29 and 3.38 over the last three years. As such, it would take a very strong package for the Yankees to acquire the righty stalwart.
No. 2 - Patrick Corbin
The interest in Corbin is also longstanding and the player has a desire to be a member of the Yankees.
Corbin's resume is a fine one -- another interrupted by Tommy John surgery. Some believe that Corbin's impressive 2018 season was a flash in the pan, but those people fail to realize he was on his way to stardom before succumbing to the surgery, which took away the entire 2014 season and part of 2015.
Corbin, another lefty, might attain a contract in the five-year, $100 million range. At 29 years old next season, his final prime seasons will be at the front end of the deal, but the typical decline could begin toward the back end of the pact. The Yankees will consider this aspect among the many factors, but the team is in win-now mode and Corbin fits the bill.
No. 1 - Corey Kluber
The Yankees do not have an established ace. Luis Severino could become one and Masahiro Tanaka was one, but a championship caliber team needs a true stallion. Kluber, the reigning Cy Young Award winner (he won in 2014 as well) and a finalist for the honor for the third straight season, would instantly increase the Yankees' chances for a championship.
Kluber's strong work ethic, workhorse ability (he's averaged 32 starts and 218 innings over the last five seasons) and robotic in-game demeanor would be adored by fans in the Bronx. His very reasonable remaining contract which takes him from his age-33 to age-35 seasons -- $13 million in 2019, team options for $13.5 million and $14.5 million in 2020 and 2021 (with $4 million in potential escalators built in) -- would be very much to the Yankees' liking.
Kluber's production caliber combined with the extreme value of his contract will mean an exceedingly hefty package of players in a trade. That said, if the Indians do make the right-hander available, the Yankees should not hesitate to pull the trigger.