Yankees’ retooled rotation has potential to be among MLB’s best
It may not have the hardware of the top-heavy staff across town, but three-plus months away from Opening Day, the Yankees rotation has the potential to be one of the best in the game.
With the injection of Carlos Rodon, who agreed to a six-year, $162 million contract on Thursday, what was already a strength of the Yankees last season could be taken to another level in 2023 — with the caveat of needing to stay healthy, of course.
“As we sit here, it’s December. You love the way it looks,” manager Aaron Boone said Friday at Yankee Stadium. “It always comes down to going out and doing it now. But we certainly feel like we’ve got a chance to have a really special group.”
Rodon, the 30-year-old left-hander, was an All-Star in each of the past two seasons with the Giants and White Sox while posting a combined 2.67 ERA. His arrival, taking the spot of Jameson Taillon, puts the Yankees in the conversation for the best starting five in the game with Gerrit Cole, Rodon, Nestor Cortes, Luis Severino and Frankie Montas.
Their top two of Rodon and Cole alone could also be one of the league’s top duos behind the Mets’ Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, both three-time Cy Young award winners.
“We have the tools to be one of, if not the best rotations in baseball,” catcher Kyle Higashioka said Sunday on MLB Network Radio.
Rodon is expected to slot into the No. 2 spot behind Cole, who is coming off an All-Star season himself despite giving up too many home runs. The presence of Rodon, though, should help take some of the weight off Cole, the $324 million ace.
Rodon’s arrival will also bump Cortes and Severino (in some order) to the Nos. 3 and 4 spots. Cortes, now the second lefty in the rotation, emerged as a legitimate high-end starter over the course of last season, proving his strong finish to 2021 was no fluke. Now he will be tasked with doing it again, after recording a 2.44 ERA and a career-high 158 ¹/₃ innings. His arm held up with the heavy workload but he needed an injured list stint in late August for a groin strain that reared its head again in October to end his ALCS Game 4 start against the Astros early.
The Yankees picked up Severino’s $15 million option for 2023, largely a no-brainer because of his ceiling, even if injuries have plagued him in recent years. He flashed that talent across 102 innings last year while registering a 3.18 ERA.
That puts Frankie Montas, the Yankees’ consolation prize at last season’s trade deadline after not being able to land Luis Castillo, as an above-average fifth starter — assuming he is not traded. Montas, who struggled to a 6.35 ERA in eight starts with the Yankees before missing the rest of the regular season with a shoulder injury, is projected to make $7.7 million (per MLB Trade Rumors) next season in his final year of arbitration and could be a trade candidate if the Yankees find a return they like.
As of now, Domingo German and Clarke Schmidt would be depth options to start, with German a possible bullpen candidate because he does not have any minor league options remaining. Schmidt still has one option remaining and could be more valuable staying stretched out at Triple-A instead of vying for a bullpen spot.
“That’s what spring training is for,” Boone said when asked about the back end of the rotation. “Those things have a way of shaking themselves out. Inevitably you’re probably going to have some attrition, hopefully not a lot, at different points of the season. Hopefully as the season unfolds and you’re hopefully more whole, guys protect one another. But we’ll see how it shakes out.”
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