LADY AT THE BAT: Thoughts On Yankees Pitching, After A Rain Out & Beyond

Friday, May 26, 2017

Thoughts On Yankees Pitching, After A Rain Out & Beyond

The schedule makers for MLB always seem to throw quirky things in to each team's schedule. The Royals and Yankees began their season series of seven games in Kansas City on May 16 and were scheduled to play the last of those seven games on Thursday afternoon, May 25 in the Bronx. Now, because of Thursday's rain out, they will play that final game as a one game series at the beginning of the season's final home stand on September 25.

So much for playing the entire season series of seven games in ten days. The postponement made me think ahead to the next game, which is tonight at home with Oakland in town, and also four months down the road when the makeup game will be played.  My thoughts today will be limited to the overall state of the pitching staff.

Of immediate concern is tonight's game, when Joe Girardi will give the struggling Masahiro Tanaka the ball, hoping to get well beyond the three and fewer innings that Tanaka has given in his last two starts. The good news is the rain out gives Tanaka an extra day of rest. Tanaka will still be at home where he seems to do better and will be facing the Athletics, not one of the most prolific lineups in the game. We're told, perhaps ad naseum, that Tanaka is healthy and is just needing to "simplify" his approach. So all should be well in Yankeeland following Tanaka's Friday performance?

We'll see.

With the mention of the makeup game between the Royals and the Yankees being rescheduled exactly four months down the road, to September 25, I cannot help but wonder what the Yankees status will be by then. Maybe they will have clinched the division and will hand the ball to somebody just up from AAA, say Chance Adams perhaps? Or, the Yankees might be in a fight for a playoff spot and every game will matter. It could also be that the Yankees fade away as the season progresses and the lineup on September 25 will be filled with just kids from the farm, trying to make an impression for next year.

We know this Yankees team, if they struggle, won't go down easily. They enter the Oakland series in first place in the AL East with a 27-17 record. The rotation the last time around received solid starts from all of  Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Jordan Montgomery and Luis Severino. We're just waiting for Tanaka to claim his rightful ace status in this rotation, and perhaps the rotation will be clicking on all cylinders as the calendar turns to June.

The loss of Aroldis Chapman hurts, but it appears Dellin Betances is indeed cut out to be the team's closer for awhile. Setup man Tyler Clippard is solid in that role, but the mix of Adam Warren, Jonathan Holder, Chad Green and the rest must hold down the fort in the 7th inning, or if a starter makes an early exit (or another 18 inning game comes along as was the case a few weeks ago at Wrigley).

Which brings us to thoughts of what upgrades the Yankees make, if any, before the July 31 deadline. Starting pitching has been mentioned on many sites I follow but, barring injury, will there be a need to add another quality starter? Who then  gets demoted to the bullpen to make room? Only Montgomery and Severino have options to be shipped to the minors which doesn't seem plausible at this point. If a need presents itself, the other problem in acquiring a quality starter is the asking price. The Pirates' Gerrit Cole and the White Sox' Jose Quintana are not going to come cheap. The asking price for either starter will be prospects, probably three in the Yankees' top five, though likely excluding number one prospect Gleyber Torres. Seems more likely GM Brian Cashman would trade for a veteran rental, at a lower price or just look to promote someone from AAA, like Adams or Domingo German, if the need arises. 

The bullpen also may be an area the Yankees upgrade before the deadline. Anybody have a lefty specialist they are willing to move? I think the bullpen will be the focal point for a mid season pitching acquisition.

One More Tanaka Thought
I recently read a comment on a fan site suggesting the Yankees should let Masahiro Tanaka walk at the end of the season. But Tanaka is not a free agent this season. It bears repeating: Tanaka can opt out of his current contract with the Yankees. That will only happen if he pitches well enough to get an extension by opting out. If Tanaka cannot be assured of a better deal from the Yankees or any other team by opting out, then he remains signed with the Yankees through 2020 with a full no trade clause to boot. Pitching inconsistently or poorly will only guarantee Tanaka stays in the Bronx for three more season after this year. A decision by the Yankees whether to sign Tanaka or let him go to another team only occurs if Tanaka pitches so well he can opt out and can expect a big payday.

No comments: