The New York Yankees have made waves this offseason with signing Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann to huge free agent contracts. While these signings are flashy, will get fans talking and out to Yankee Stadium to watch the team, the Yankees have yet to address the most glaring hole on their roster: starting pitching.
As currently assembled, the Yankees’ starting rotation consists of CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, David Phelps, Michael Pineda and Adam Warren. That isn’t a joke. If the season started tomorrow, those would be the pitchers the Yankees would trot out to face American League lineups. Only Sabathia, who is currently listed as the No. 1 pitcher in the rotation, has any type of proven track record in the big leagues, and he isn’t even a sure thing anymore after posting the worst numbers of what had been an excellent career before last season. Everyone else in the rotation really is a question mark, and none more so than Pineda.
The Yankees still have no idea what they are going to get out of Pineda, who hasn’t pitched since 2011 after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. If he can regain his form from the first half of the 2011 season the rotation will look a lot better. That is certainly a big if considering when Pineda steps on a big league mound it will be over two years since the last time he faced a major league batter.
With that being said, the Yankees have reportedly offered Hiroki Kuroda a one-year contract. It would be huge for the Yankees if Kuroda decides to come back and pitch one more season in New York, but even bringing back Kuroda would not be enough for the Yankees to have a solid enough rotation to be able to compete in the AL East and make the deep playoff run all Yankees fans expect every year. Kuroda would be a nice signing, but let’s face it; at age 38 and after fading during the final two months of the regular season Kuroda is at the stage of his career where there will be plenty of doubt if he can stay healthy and perform the way the Yankees need him to for 34 starts.
So that leaves the question of what the Yankees should do to get at least two more starting pitchers for the rotation to not be as much of a weakness heading into the season. The free agent pitching class this year is weak, but with the current state of the Yankees’ farm system, diving into free agent pool is really their only option. With Tim Lincecum, Ricky Nolasco and Dan Haren already off the board, the Yankees should go after Bronson Arroyo and Masahiro Tanaka.
Arroyo would be an excellent addition to the Yankees’ pitching staff and is exactly the kind player the team needs to steady the rotation. He knows how to pitch in a homer-friendly home stadium after pitching eight seasons in Great American Ballpark, is a good clubhouse guy by all accounts, has been consistent for his entire career, and most importantly for this Yankees team he’s been healthy. Arroyo may be 36, but he does not have any red flags which should hinder the Yankees from offering him a three-year deal. Tanaka is more of a risk, but after the success of Yu Darvish and Hisashi Iwakuma, who have put up excellent numbers in the big leagues after pitching in Japan, it would be worth the gamble.
The Yankees have to get moving on filling out their starting rotation with pitchers who can lead them back to the postseason after missing out on the party last year. As we have seen in this post-steroid era of baseball, just having a great offense does not cut it anymore; pitching is what gets teams to the World Series. The Yankees definitely have the money make this possible; now let’s see if they continue to break the bank — this time on pitching.