By Sweeny Murti
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Do the Yankees have enough starting pitching?
We ask that question every winter, every spring, and every summer. The answer is almost always no. But, of course, the goals are a little different now than before.
Sure, they would like to push themselves into winning mode this year, but there is a bigger picture to consider. That means trading away top prospects to fill the gaps in your rotation is not a great idea.
Michael Pineda’s injury leaves a big hole. He wasn’t pitching as well as he had in the first two months of the year, but a healthy Pineda always gave you hope that he could dominate a game.
So you start with the top four starters — Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, CC Sabathia, and Jordan Montgomery.
Tanaka has given the Yankees some hope lately, pitching well in four of his last five starts. But his poor first half has to hurt your confidence level in him. This is not the Tanaka we saw in 2016.
Severino earned his All-Star nod and can take big steps forward with a strong second half. It will be a big test for the young right-hander, and whether he succeeds or fails it will be part of the learning process. The Yankees didn’t give up on him as a starter after last year and they won’t if these second-half results aren’t great, either.
Sabathia is the textbook definition of veteran savvy right now. Even around a DL stint he’s pitching to a 1.60 ERA over his last eight starts. I don’t know exactly what to expect from him the rest of the way, but I am never afraid to give him the ball.
Montgomery has been a great surprise ever since spring training. Watching him go this deep into his first big league season will be interesting.
So that’s only four pitchers and the Yankees obviously need more than that. It’s tempting when you are this close in the playoff races to try to put yourself over the top with a trade, but the Yankees always talk about trying to solve problems internally before giving away assets in a trade. And the problem right now is going to be acquisition cost. Any starter the Yankees could acquire that would be a clear upgrade might cost them a prospect they aren’t ready to give up at this time.
Is this the team that you try to push over the top with a deadline pitching move? Or do you save your chips for next year when this team might be in a better position?
The internal options might be intriguing, and the Yankees might find themselves in a position similar to last year when it was time to see if their talented prospects were ready. Last year it was about position players like Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, and Tyler Austin. Time to see what the pitching side has to offer.
Bryan Mitchell started Monday in Minnesota and has been one of those up-and-down guys for the last few years. The Yankees have been high on him for a long time, and he is in position to contribute. Luis Cessa and Chad Green have filled some valuable roles. Green’s future may still be as a starter, but in the wake of Tyler Clippard’s problems he has provided a stabilizing relief option.
Then you start talking about the guys you haven’t seen before and the one that will be at the top of the list until he actually gets called up is Chance Adams.
Scouts who’ve seen Adams recently tell me he’s major league ready. The Yankees feel otherwise at the moment. Fastball command and strengthening his repertoire are the reasons Joe Girardi has given. But the veteran manager hinted at seeing Adams in a relief role later in the year as his innings count rises at Triple-A.
Justus Sheffield has been impressive at Double-A. I would think his jump to the big leagues this year is unlikely, but I wouldn’t rule it out entirely depending on circumstances. He could be next year’s Montgomery and win a job out of spring training.
The Yankees have some more interesting arms in the lower minors that will draw trade attention now and in the near future. Since they are farther away from the majors it will be interesting to see how the Yankees approach those assets — Domingo Acevedo, Yefrey Ramirez, Zack Littell, Albert Abreu, Freicer Perez, and Jorge Guzman.
Young pitchers with big arms and projectable upside. The industry loves pitchers like that. The Yankees have their share. Other teams will be asking for them. The only way I think the Yankees consider deals like that is for players with multiple years of team control.
The team that won 21 of its first 30 games has now lost 21 of its last 30. The Yankees are essentially a .500 team with their eyes on more than 2017. I still think this is a team that wins somewhere in the mid 80s. No need to make a crazy deal now that you’ll regret later.
The Yankees have preached patience and discipline. They are the new “Mystique” and “Aura.” Maybe the latter will come back soon, but not if you lose sight of the former.
Follow Sweeny on Twitter at @YankeesWFAN