Yankees: There’s Plenty Of Low Hanging Fruit Among Starters To Pick From

2021 Yankees pull in the payroll reins 2021

If the Yankees seek, they will find serviceable starting pitching via the free-agent or trade market. Here are a few strategies worthy of a look.

Yankees’ principal owner Hal Steinbrenner has made clear his intention to maintain payroll austerity in the upcoming season.

He is not alone in this endeavor as teams continue to fight the invisible enemy – COVID 19. Major League Baseball has released team schedules for the 2021 season for the regular season, but there is no assurance it can be adhered to.

Already reliable reports are indicating MLB is discussing a four-to-six week delay to the start of spring training in 2021. If implemented, this will mean a regular season consisting of 120-130 games.

Revenue losses from reducing the number of games played will further be complicated if fans are not permitted to attend games until mid-summer.

Yankees Still Testing The Waters

For the Yankees, this has meant not seeing the team listed anywhere on the  MLB Transaction Wireto date.

This Friday will mark the anniversary of the Yankees’ signing of Gerrit Cole to a record nine-year $324 million contract.

Yankees Meet The Mets On 9/11/2021
Yankees Meet The Mets On 9/11/2021

This offseason, with the Yankees’ apparent willingness to re-sign DJ LeMahieu, regardless of the cost, activity by the team is marked only by rumors and wishful thinking.

In any other year, the Yankees would be off and running, driving the price up on the top tier of free-agents, even if there was only a hint of their interest in a particular player.

We’d be seeing one of those classic bidding wars between the Mets and Yankees for the services of Trevor Bauer, this year’s recipient of the free-agent Golden Boy award.

Can The Yankees Get It Done Anyway?

Nevertheless, several serviceable starting pitchers are available to the Yankees via trade or free-agent signing for the regular season.

I repeat – the regular season.

The Yankee’s firepower can carry the load to the playoffs, assuming Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton remain healthy, and Gleyber Torres bounces back from an off-year.

Luke Voit, Clint Frazier, and a comeback season from Gary Sanchez all but ensures the team can live with a starting staff with the combined ERA in the range of 4.50-4.80.

Commissioner Manfred's "Piece Of Metal"
Commissioner Manfred’s “Piece Of Metal”

Granted, a “serviceable” starting staff will not win the World Series. But by the trading deadline, the Yankees will have had a chance to sort things out enough to constitute who the keepers are.

More significantly, and hopefully, revenue will again be streaming in to afford the Yankees to get a real number two from another team via trade, forming a one-two punch behind Cole for the postseason.

The trouble is that despite the fact the calendar says it’s “early,” it’s not that early for other teams like the Atlanta Braves, who have scooped up Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly, or the Chicago White Sox who nailed down Lance Lynn yesterday in a trade with the Texas Rangers.

While none of these starters whet the appetite like Trevor Bauer, each is a reliable, tenacious, and valuable innings-eater for the regular season.

Yankees And The Search For Low-Hanging Fruit

Given the Yankees’ reluctance to spend large for free agent talent, Brian Cashman is most likely engaging in daily talks with teams looking for low-cost position player talent in exchange for proven ability as a starting pitcher.

Sonny Gray Taking Big Strides Forward
Sonny Gray Taking Big Strides Forward

Please don’t laugh, but one of those pitchers might be Sonny Gray, who has responded with two excellent seasons with the Cincinnati Reds after his unceremonious exile from New York.

With the Reds having to face fiscal reality as a small-market team, Gray’s salary figures to be part of the “dump” they need to engage in this year. Conceivably, the Reds would agree to a partial payment of Gray’s $10.1 million earnings, at least for this year.

Jake Odorizzi - Nothing Sexy - just quality innings pitched (twincities,com)
Jake Odorizzi – Nothing Sexy – just quality innings pitched (twincities,com)

There is truth to the argument that Gray was not so much like a deer in the headlights of New York, as much as he was a victim of Yankees’ pitching coach Larry Rothschild, who tried to twist and bend Gray’s natural talents in a “new” direction.

But, there’s more for the Yankees to weigh as they peruse the remaining free agent Class of 2021 Free-Agent Starting Pitchers.

Both Jake Odorizzi and Rich Hill (a lefty, by the way) offer the Yankees an opportunity to stabilize their rotation, albeit with two guys well-advanced in age.

For example, Hill pitched for the Minnesota Twins for a paltry $3 million, making eight starts with an American League ERA of 3.03 in 2020, and Odorizzi has a Cy Young award that reminds of his astuteness as a pitcher.

Don’t Waste Time Looking For Sexy

These are not sexy names that will light up the back page of New York newspapers. They are just proven and successful major league pitchers, and precisely what the Yankees need to qualify for the playoffs.

Do you want a sexy name – here’s one – Blake Snell. Much like the Reds, the Tampa Bay Rays, as much as it pains them and baseball generally, seemingly have no choice but to trim payroll.

Reportedly, the Rays are listening to offers on Snell, who has around $41 million due to him over the next three years.

Meanwhile, the Yankees have a ton of inexpensive yet valuable talent that may entice the Rays. A package including Miguel Andujar and Luke Voit would certainly open up a worthwhile discussion between the teams.

If only it were that simple, though, as the Yankees wait and wait on the LeMahieu deal’s resolution before they consider parting with Andujar and, most especially with the 2020 AL Home Run Champion, Luke Voit.

Yankees: Adapting To An Unfamiliar Environment

The point here is two-fold. By their own definition, the Yankees will be playing in the kiddies pool, at least until the season is fully underway.

And second, if the Yankees seek, they can find enough financially manageable starting pitching talent to get them through the 2021 regular season.

MLB: This time it is all about the money
MLB: This time, it is all about the money

To put the Yankees in a sentence with the words “financially manageable” is an oxymoron worthy of blasphemy in biblical times.

But since we don’t sign the checks, Hal Steinbrenner’s claim that the Yankees suffered higher losses (estimated $900 million) last season than any team needs to be measured as a reality.

This, even though few of us can give credence to the idea of the Yankees being anything but a money-making machine.

So, let’s go with the tide of restraint, at least until the trade deadline when in all likelihood, the Yankees will be on the hot seat to land that one guy who can (finally) put the team over the top as Gerrit Cole’s counter-punch.


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Author: stevecontursi

I am an amateur writer with a passion for baseball and all things Yankees and Mets.