LADY AT THE BAT: Homegrown Adam Warren Likely Headed To Yankees Pen Despite Consistency

Monday, June 22, 2015

Homegrown Adam Warren Likely Headed To Yankees Pen Despite Consistency

Masahiro Tanaka pitched a stinker on Sunday afternoon when he was lit up for 10 hits and 5 ERs in just 5.0 IP.  With that, the award for best pitching performance by a Yankees pitcher goes to: Adam Warren. He hasn't been as purely dominant as Michel Pineda or Nathan Eovaldi, but he has done something neither of them could do:  In his last start (on Friday against Detroit) he gave them length (8.0 IP) and dominance (2 ER on 7 hits).

Does it make sense, then, that he’s likely headed to the bullpen upon Ivan Nova’s return?

The Yankees have a reputation, earned in the late 90’s and through the ‘00s, of overlooking their young prospects and using them only as trade bait to get mid career and/or aging veterans. That’s changed in recent years, as pitchers like David Robertson, Ivan Nova, Dellin Betances and Phil Hughes have debuted with the Yankees and have proved they are Major Leaguers.

Still, it’s difficult not to harken back to the “hired gun” days as the Yankees make their upcoming decision to reinsert Nova back into the starting rotation. More and more, it seems like Warren, whose ERA has mostly dropped since April 22 when it was 5.40, to his current 3.62.

The problem facing him is that the other pitchers in the rotation have the two E’s working for them: They are all Established and Expensive big league pitchers:

Tanaka, the fragile but talented right hander, earns $22MM. CC Sabathia, who has yet to find any consistency on the mound and is pitching to a 5.31 ERA, is earning over $24MM. Michael Pineda, who is earning his keep this season, is earning $2.1MM. Nathan Eovaldi, who continues to infuriate with his inability to prevent hits despite his electric repertoire, is earning $3.3MMM, the same amount as the returning Nova who needs to reestablish himself.

That leaves the homegrown Warren, earning $572K for the year, on the outside looking in, despite his solid season. When the Yankees make the move, they’ll do it diplomatically so Warren won’t be humiliated by the process. However, he admitted on New York Daily News reporter Mark Feinsand's weekly podcast that he would be disappointed.

Aside from Nova, all the other pitchers are imports via trade or free agency, and you wonder what message this sends to the prospects in the minors and to the fan base. Should we even bother to get excited about the potential impact of the Aaron Judges of the world?

My answer: yes, get excited. The Yankees showed faith in their homegrown talent when they demoted Capuano to the pen ahead of Warren. Similarly, they chose to keep Jacob Lindgren, jettisoning David Carpenter, an import from Atlanta, instead. When warranted, they’ve gone with the better option despite salary or reputation.

The difference here is the impact on the clubhouse. Asking Sabathia, easily the weakest performer, to go to the pen, would put an established clubhouse leader in an awkward spot and might do more harm than good.

This doesn’t detract from the Yankee organization's commitment to the youngsters; rather it’s a nod to the rather hierarchical and, yes, outdated structure of a big league clubhouse. That’s it, and we shouldn’t take anything more from it. Yet.

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