Brian Cashman, GM New York Yankees Photo Credit: MLB.com

Yankees: There Are No “Front-Line” Starters Out There, So Why Bother…

The Yankees need a “Front-Line” starter if they are going to make it all the way. It’s been ingrained in our brain, by now. Which would be fine if indeed there were pitchers out there who meet that criteria…

Yesterday, we talked about reasons why the Yankees could decide to stand pat at the deadline, and still maintain the momentum of the first half from their existing starting rotation. I won’t say overwhelmingly, but a substantial portion of readers “liked” the story as posted on various Facebook Yankees Groups.

Today, I want to take a look at the question from a different angle asking these front-line pitchers to stand up and identify themselves, because I just don’t see anyone who even comes close to the definition of a front-line starter.

Go through them all and tell me when you see a name where you say to yourself, “Wow, he’s a difference maker and we just have to have him, no matter what it costs.” J.A. Happ, Cole Hamels, Michael Fulmer, Chris Archer, Danny Duffy, Matthew Boyd, Tyson Ross…have we hit one yet?

J.A Happ, Trade Deadline Bait Photo Credit: UPI
J.A Happ, Trade Deadline Bait Photo Credit: UPI

I didn’t think so, and my guess is the Yankees don’t think so either. And yet, the reports keep coming, like this one about the Yankees interest in J.A. Happ that appeared in the New York Daily News on Monday. Well written by Mike Mazzeo, the article goes out of its way praising the season Happ is having.

And there’s no doubt that much is true as Mazzeo points to these facts. “On the season, he’s 8-3 with 3.48 ERA, posting 94 strikeouts in 82.2 innings. He’s also gone seven innings in five of his 14 starts. Righties have amassed just a .660 OPS against Happ, while lefties have been even worse, with a .433 OPS.”

Downsized in the story, however, is the report from a scout who characterizes Happ saying, “He doesn’t throw as hard as he used to, but he’s got a plus curveball and a plus changeup. I’d say he’s between a No. 3 and a No. 4 at this point in his career.”

Wait a minute, a Number 3 or 4? Better than Domingo German or Sonny Gray following Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, and CC Sabathia? At the age of 35, Happ is the difference maker, and worth the prospects Toronto is bound to demand?

Put Cole Hamels, 34, on the burner, and we see the same thing, which is a reliable but hardly dominant left-handed pitcher whose 4-6 record this season is given a pass because he pitches for the lowly Texas Rangers.

These are rental pitchers at best, and nowhere near what anyone can call a front-line starter. Balance that against the level of talent the Yankees would need to surrender, and it behooves me to see the value of gaining an arm just to make eight starts in August and September. Both Brian Cashman and Aaron Boone have ruled out the Yankees using a six-man rotation, so there’s no advantage there either.

Here’s The Real Deal For The Yankees

Blake Snell, Tampa Bay Rays
Blake Snell, Tampa Bay Rays Photo Credit: draysbay.com

Now, if you are talking about adding a quality starter the Yankees can control for the next three or four seasons, roll with it because it doesn’t get any better than that. Someone like Blake Snell, who is having a banner season for the Tampa Bay Rays fits that bill, and I’m betting Cashman already has him in his sights.

Snell, who is only 25, is not eligible for arbitration until 2020 and will not reach free agency until 2023. His record speaks for itself. Making a league-leading 16 starts, Snell is 9-4 with a sparkling 2.48 ERA.

Snell will be expensive, and Cashman will need to pry him away from the Rays who, know they have zero chances of making the playoffs not only this year but also for the next several seasons, as the Yankees and Red Sox figure to maintain their dominance in the AL East for some time.

On the surface at least, it makes dollar sense for the always poor revenue generating Rays to move Snell in exchange for three top Yankees prospects, giving them a three-for-one swap of players they can control for the next several years.

At the very least, the discussion about the Yankees making a deal for a front-line starter needs to be changed to reflect some honesty. The Yankees, if they are looking for anything pitching-wise are looking for a rental. These are mid-level pitchers, and that’s it. Here today and gone tomorrow.

Brian Cashman is smarter than that, and I’m still betting that he’s betting on the starters he already has in his rotation before he settles on a Number Three or Four when we already a 3, 4, and 5 of worthy value.

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