The Yankees entered spring camp with at least 80 percent of the rotation set in stone with the fifth piece fairly certain. Once Yankees skipper Aaron Boone wasted no time in naming Jordan Montgomery his fifth starter, it became apparent the Yankees knew all along they would begin the season with the same starting five they ended 2017.
The question becomes: Were the Yankees wise to abstain from what became a severely inexpensive pitching market for proven middle of the rotation starters? For example, Lance Lynn signed for just one year at $12 million, while Alex Cobb remains unsigned.
The Yankees have recently been reported to be both not interested and interested in Cobb, so who knows what's going on there? At the beginning of the offseason, I was of the mindset that it was OK to avoid spending big money on either pitcher, but since the market came down to one-year deals, it forces revisiting.
Moreover, if the Yankees are in win-now mode -- and they clearly are -- wouldn't it be more advisable to add the depth piece up front knowing the potential shortcomings, whether performance-based or related to injuries? That's an especially important question for them to be asking right now.
I suspect the Yankees firmly believe that agreeing to a deal with either Lynn then or Cobb now was restrictive because of the compensation (a second- and fifth-round pick, plus a loss of $1 million in international bonus pool funds) for a player saddled with a qualifying offer. That may be even more difficult to swallow knowing the player will be retained for just one season. At this point, it is unlikely that Cobb would take an inexpensive multi-year deal, hoping that next offseason will somehow be more lucrative.
The Yankees might be biding their time, feeling that they can tap into the minor leagues or make a midseason trade to bolster the rotation, take over for an underperforming member of the staff or overcome an injury. The interesting aspect here is the cost of doing business when there is a larger and an outwardly noticeable need tends to favor the team with the commodity. This means the premium for potential arms like Michael Fulmer and Chris Archer will soar in July, especially if the Yankees are targeting long-term and cost-effective solutions.
Of course, there is a chance that the Yankees can take on salary of a pitcher that is in his walk year, one that was not necessarily thought to be available now but who could provide the club with what it needs down the stretch. It is also plausible that the Yankees are confident the talent in the minors will rise to the occasion when necessary.
It is worth noting however, the perceived top two options -- Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield -- did not impress this spring with the former getting hit hard and often (4.2 IP, 9 H, 6 ER, 2 HR), albeit in a small sample size, while the latter is simply not ready for the level change. A lot can happen during the regular season, though neither option currently represents a certainty.
The biggest reason for concern rests in the health of the current rotation members. Montgomery and Luis Severino are coming off their highest innings pitched totals in their very young careers. The jumps Montgomery and Severino took from the year before -- 24 and 58 innings (including the postseason), respectively -- can result in some lost time the following season. Further, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray and CC Sabathia seem like solid candidates for at least one stint on the disabled list each based on their individual injury histories.
If the Yankees endure a significant injury, are they finally going to rely on Adams, whom they bypassed often in 2017 and didn't receive much of a chance from in spring (based on Boone's early Montgomery declaration)? Or will they take the tired, non-effective route with a pitcher like Luis Cessa?
It is certainly possible the Yankees are well ahead of me here (I suppose they should be) and could be indeed heavily debating a move with Cobb. To be frank, the draft picks they would lose are crapshoots and the money lost in their international bonus pool can be reclaimed via trades using their deep farm system. Their current depth also gives the club a lot of flexibility to forfeit the two picks right now. If a deal can be made that allows the Yankees to remain under the luxury tax with a buffer for midseason additions, they might have another deal in front of them they believe they cannot shy away from.
The Yankees are by no means dead in the water without having added depth to the rotation this offseason, however having a secure life raft on hand is always better than trying to find one when the ship is taking on water.