John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Brian Cashman has been talking up Domingo German, Jonathan Loaisiga, and Luis Cessa collectively as the under-the-radar cure for everything that ails the Yankees pitching plans. Well, now we'll find out whether he really believes that.
Or is the Yankee GM already plotting a way to trade for Madison Bumgarner?
Because with Luis Severino likely out until at least the All-Star break after being diagnosed on Tuesday with a strained lat muscle, the Yankees can't be thinking all they need is a band-aid for their starting rotation.
But that doesn't necessarily mean taking the plunge for Dallas Keuchel. At least, according to a person close to the situation, indicated Tuesday night that Cashman is likely to exhaust all of the alternatives unless Keuchel's already-falling price drops another couple of levels.
Certainly Gio Gonzalez will get a shot first. The lefty, signed to a minor league deal late in Spring Training, finally showed signs of being a potential answer for the Yankees, racking up 10 strikeouts in six shutout innings in a Triple-A start on Tuesday night. It was a huge improvement after Gonzalez had given up eight runs in four innings in his first Triple-A start last week, and he had looked unimpressive during his only Spring Training start, with his fastball at 89 mph.
Gonzalez relies more on his curve and his change-up at this point in his career, but he did have a better fastball on Tuesday, getting strikeouts with it at 90 and 91 mph.
No less significant, he has an opt-out in his contract if he's not in the big leagues by April 20, so you'd have to think the Yankees will give the lefty a look soon.
That said, even after signing Gonzalez to a no-risk deal, Cashman made it clear he preferred the young arms of German, Loaisiga, and Cessa to provide the necessary depth behind Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, J.A. Happ, and presumably CC Sabathia, who is about ready to make his first start of the season.
German and Loaisiga have each shown dominant stuff at times, but German has been plagued by walks, and both have had enough injury issues as minor-leaguers that they'll have significant innings-limits if either locks down a rotation spot.
All of which could make for high drama at the July 31st trading deadline, with Bumgarner as the potential prize.
There's no guarantee the Giants will deal their World Series hero, but the 29-year old lefty is in the final year of his contract, and more to the point, he offers new GM Farhan Zaidi the best chance to jumpstart a much-needed rebuild for an aging, losing team with a weak farm system.
Even then, teams are going to want to see Bumgarner rebuild his value a bit after a couple of injury-plagued seasons that saw his velocity decline a bit. In three starts this season, he has pitched pretty well, though not with his old dominance, with a 3.32 ERA over 19 innings while giving up four home runs.
Finally, there is the matter of whether the Yankees have the prospects to make such a deal if Bumgarner pitches well enough to have multiple teams pursuing a trade for him.
Between the trades they've made the last couple of years and the graduation of top prospects like Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, and -- to some extent -- Clint Frazier, the Yankees' farm system has fallen in the rankings by various minor-league publications and websites, from a consensus Top Five to the bottom third of the 30 organizations.
Contributing to that evaluation were injuries last year to some key prospects, most notably Estevan Florial and pitcher Albert Abreu. Yet those two almost certainly would be players the Giants would want in a deal for Bumgarner, which would be revealing on the Yankees' part since it was only a year ago that Florial was considered practically untouchable.
It will all depend on how desperate the Yankees are for pitching by then.
Who knows, maybe the young pitchers will prove worthy of the praise Cashman has heaped upon them. Maybe Gonzalez recaptures the success he had with the Nationals as recently as two years ago, when he pitched to a 2.96 ERA over 32 starts.
Or maybe neither of those scenarios materializes anytime soon, and the Yankees bite the bullet on Keuchel. According to reports, he's more willing to sign a short-term deal. But if he's looking for more than the $17.9 million qualifying offer he turned down from the Astros, as Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic reported, it's hard to see Cashman doing that even on a one-year deal.
The consensus among evaluators is that Keuchel's stuff has slipped significantly, and clearly the Yankees would prefer not to sign him. So it appears they'll try all other options first to see if they can survive what will now be a long-term absence from Severino.
For Cashman, survival in a win-now season might just mean trying to get to the trade deadline, and taking a shot at Bumgarner.