NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Yankees appear poised to strike.
They may be in first place in the AL East, but the Bombers (38-20) have been excelling despite a makeshift rotation that has dealt with numerous injuries.
While many had expected general manager Brian Cashman to make a splash by the July 31 trade deadline, he reportedly is moving toward solidifying his starting staff right now. According to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, the Yankees have emerged as the front-runners to sign free agent left-hander Dallas Keuchel.
Earlier this week, Feinsand reported that New York and the Atlanta Braves have been in hot pursuit of the 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner, but he amended his report Tuesday with new information saying the Yankees are now the clear favorites.
The Minnesota Twins and St. Louis Cardinals reportedly also have interest.
Keuchel, who owns a 76-63 record and 3.66 ERA in seven major league seasons, all with the Houston Astros, would be a boon to a rotation that has been banged up yet somehow good enough.
Presumed ace Luis Severino hasn’t thrown a pitch yet in the regular season due to a right rotator cuff injury and a Grade 2 left lat strain, the latter suffered while he was rehabbing the former. He’s not expected back until after the All-Star break in mid-July. Veteran left-handers James Paxton and CC Sabathia have each spent time on the injured list due to knee problems and will likely pitch with some level of discomfort for the rest of the season, manager Aaron Boone has said.
Youngster Domingo German has been a godsend as a fill-in for Severino, going 9-1 with with a 3.66 ERA in 12 appearances, including 11 starts, but has never thrown more than 85 2/3 innings in a season. The 26-year-old right-hander hasn’t been great over his last two starts, pitching a combined 8 2/3 innings while allowing 10 earned runs and 15 hits, including five home runs.
Keuchel has been a five-pitch craftsman throughout his career, mixing his low-90s fastball and sinker with a slider, cutter and change that turned him into one of the premiere groundball pitchers in the game, just the type of approach one needs to excel in a homer-happy stadium, like the one in the Bronx.
The question is whether the 31-year-old left-hander still has the same type of freakish command he displayed earlier in his career.
Keuchel is coming off a bit of a down year, going just 12-11 with a 3.74 ERA last season, but has said he enjoys pitching in New York, and has a career 2.45 ERA at Yankee Stadium to prove it. He has also been pretty good in the postseason, going 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA in 10 career appearances, including nine starts.
Scott Boras, Keuchel’s agent, told MLB.com last week his client already has the arm strength needed to pitch in major league games, despite not having had anything resembling spring training. According to Boras, Keuchel had thrown seven simulated games, each consisting of around 100 pitches, through the end of May.