While the New York Yankees don’t expect to miss the postseason for a fourth time in five seasons next year, their starting pitching situation, especially going beyond 2017, is filled with doubt, especially due to Masahiro Tanaka having an opt out clause beyond next season, which he’ll likely act on.
The Yankees weren’t that far from making the playoffs in 2016 despite trading away significant pitching talent before the deadline to bolster their farm system. Right now, it doesn’t seem like Brian Cashman is too eager to start using all that piled up prospect talent for the likes of Chris Sale, preferring to see who’ll rise from the ranks of his own team, while counting on Tanaka, C.C. Sabathia and Michael Pineda as their more established players in the rotation.
Even if using Sabathia and Pineda as #2 and #3 options is a good way to go (and it probably isn’t, unless they’re once again counting on an elite bullpen unit), the Yankees have 0 veteran pitchers to rely on past 2017. Tanaka can opt out of his deal (he makes $22 million in 2018, $22 million in 2019 and $23 million in 2020), while both Pineda and Sabathia are free agents after this season. The Yankees don’t plan on re-signing them, which leaves them in an interesting position.
The Yankees do like some of their younger pitchers, but I don’t think they actually know who can be ready to pitch for them six-seven innings a game in 2017. This means diving into the free agency pitching market (which isn’t too robust with quality), making one or two big trades (Chris Sale keeps coming up) or funneling their attention to bullpen options, like Aroldis Chapman and maybe even another player of that caliber, going with the approach teams usually tend to go with in the playoffs.
The Yankees have other needs except pitching, but their inability to secure talent beyond 2017 in the rotation leaves them in a tough spot in this offseason. It won’t be surprising if they end up caving in to Rich Hill’s demands despite his age but that only provides a very short term solution, nothing more. The Yankees are trying to be both competitive now and build solidly for the future, but they seem to struggle doing both.