By Ernie Palladino
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Pitchers are like pass-rushers.
You can never have too many of them. Just ask the Mets.
That’s why the Yankees could use another starter. Despite having agreed to a new one-year, $10 million free agent contract with CC Sabathia last week and completing what would be a five-man rotation that includes Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, and Jordan Montgomery, another thoroughbred in the stable won’t hurt.
It’s exactly why general manager Brian Cashman is dangling his deep supply of prospects out there for starting names like Gerrit Cole, Michael Fulmer, Patrick Corbin, and Danny Duffy.
The 27-year-old right-hander Cole looks like a solid target two years removed from posting a 19-8 record and 2.60 ERA. But Cashman probably won’t be crazy enough to meet the Pirates’ demand for minor league phenom Gleyber Torres, especially if plans to plant him at second or third with the varsity come to fruition.
Duffy, a 28-year-old left-hander, could come at a lesser price and be even more valuable than Cole because of his bullpen experience. Unless manager Aaron Boone decides to go with a six-man rotation — always dicey even in this age of shorter starts and quicker hooks — he could stick Duffy in the ‘pen and then either spot-start him or turn to him when there is an injury.
Cole, the Tigers’ Fulmer, or the Diamondbacks’ Corbin would supplant Montgomery and either push the young lefty into the bullpen or down to the minors.
Either way, landing an extra starting arm is wise considering the rotation’s current makeup. Both Tanaka and Sabathia spent time on the disabled list last season. Tanaka still has that partially torn ulnar ligament that must be watched closely, as it has the past two years. Sabathia has a cranky right knee that sent him to a specialist in August.
Also, Sabathia is 37. That means he certainly knows his way around the mound and the clubhouse. That type of guy is invaluable to a young roster as it navigates the turbulence of a long season. But it also makes him more vulnerable physically and production-wise.
Throw in the fact that Tanaka’s expected successor as staff ace, Severino, is coming off tossing a career-high 193 1/3 innings. Boone and pitching coach Larry Rothschild will have a close eye on him, especially after watching him blow up in two out of three postseason starts.
An extra starter would certainly help keep the rotation rested and healthy.
Health is key, of course. New York saw how quickly a dominant pitching staff can go down the drain last year when Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, and Jeurys Familia went down in Flushing. The Mets were supposed to have the most feared staff in baseball.
After all those injuries, not so much.
To leave a rookie manager like Boone with no pitching insurance, even with the power-laden lineup he’s salivating over right now, would do him a disservice.
The Yankees of 2018 expect to make a run at the World Series. A team can’t do that without pitching.
The Yanks have the offense. It was loaded before, and the addition of Giancarlo Stanton makes it downright frightening.
But they still need people to get 27 outs.
They have a nice rotation now. Another starter would not represent an embarrassment of riches, but add valuable depth.
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