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Manager Bobby Mitchell hopes to have Justus Sheffield back before the end of the season.(Martin Griff)


[Opinion] What Should The Yankees Do About Their Starting Pitching, Why No One Is Off The Table

The trade season is at it’s highest form, and the New York Yankees are on the clock again as they sit second in the American League East. As they have now lost out on Machado (which has its positives and negatives), the Yankees’ focus can get back to starting pitching. However, with the lackluster options available the debate of who to give up top-prospects for rages on.

Here I’ll be going over three things. One, who the Yankees have in the back-half of the rotation now and what to do with them. Two, why Justus Sheffield is the only one ready to be moved into the Yankees’ rotation any time soon. Finally, why just because the Yankees have great depth in their system does not mean they have top talent and why everyone should be on the table if a top-arm can fall into their laps.

First let’s look at the Yankees’ bottom end of the rotation as Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, and CC Sabathia‘s positions will undoubtedly stay the same.


Sonny Gray (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

Sonny Gray holds a 5.40 ERA in his last seven starts, 35 strikeouts, 11 walks, and 21 earned runs in 35 innings pitched. Gray has hindered the rotation (to say the least) and his time in pinstripes has been as expected to some who saw what he was in Oakland in recent years. The thought of having a sub-four ERA pitcher was enticing, but that’s only because the rotation was so mediocre and the Yankees were in rebuild mode. Now that all expectations of this team have sky-rocketed and they are very much in play to win the American League, Gray’s five-inning appearances do not seem as easy to handle.

So what is there to do with him? The two options are to trade him or let him try and figure it out some more. Obviously, with the Red Sox raging and the Indians now bolstering their bullpen after their trade with the Padres, the latter does not seem very enticing. The Yankees need to move Gray and fast, he may not be a starter on a contender (right now), but he is still a serviceable pitcher in general (just not in the Bronx). A team will take Gray and prospects, but it has to be to the right team who is looking to rebuild or just cash in on some solid prospects and take Sonny for the sake of the trade.

The fifth starter has been Domingo German who has made 12 starts in his last 14 appearances. He holds a 5.97 ERA as a starter and has 92 strikeouts in 78 2/3 innings pitched. German has not been the answer to the Yankees’ starting pitching woes either, but he has not been as bad as his ERA shows. He has had plenty quality starts, but when he’s off, he is way off as you saw against the Indians before the break.

New York Yankees’ Domingo German delivers a pitch during the first inning of the team’s baseball game against the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday, July 3, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

It seems German is not quite there yet to be a starter, but the talent is there. If the Yankees can bring two new names into the rotation and move him back to the bullpen, it might help him finish the season making relief appearances to be a full-starter in 2019 (much like Severino), which leads us to our next point.

Seeing as Gray and German are not the answers for the Yankees for what they will need in October (this season), who are and how do they go about it?

There are a couple of different scenarios that come into play here. One is the Yankees trade for one pitcher and then choose between Gray or German for the fifth spot (obviously picking Gray simply because of what they gave up to get him). This may be the most realistic one as it’s hard to believe they trade for two starters. Two (which I brought up before) was to include Gray in a package and place your bets with German in that fifth position, although for the people that want to place their bets online, in different sports like baseball, the use of services like kqxs online are ideal for this. However, another variant of the second option is after trading Gray, roll with German for a couple of weeks to a month until Justus Sheffield is ready, then once he is, move Sheffield into the rotation, German to bullpen, and roll into the playoffs with a rotation of Severino, Tanaka, CC, unnamed pitcher you traded for, and Sheffield.

Many see the options available this season and do not want to give any prospects away, which is reasonable. The pitchers available are the same types of pitcher the Yankees have in Gray. However, there is something that many people do not seem to realize about the Yankees’ system. Is it one of the best regarding depth? Of course, but how much of it is top-talent? Talent that stands out as a Gleyber Torres did, who would undoubtedly be a game-changer and All-Star from the start.

The Yankees do not have those pitching prospects and will not for a while. There are many names in Staten Island (and other levels as well) who are looking to be great pitchers in the future but are of no help now.

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U.S. Team Justus Sheffield, of the New York Yankees works against the World Team in the second inning during the All-Star Futures baseball game, Sunday, July 15, 2018, at Nationals Park, in Washington. The the 89th MLB baseball All-Star Game will be played Tuesday. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Let me say that Justus Sheffield is the Yankees’ best pitching prospect, but behind him there most likely are not any others who should even make an appearance in the Bronx this season (or next) unless some terrible injuries happen in the bullpen.

With that being said if there is any time to take a chance on a player that could help you this season, it’s now. This is not saying the Yankees do not have any prospects who will be All-Stars or be game-changers.

This is saying as of now, and next season for most as well, they are not ready to help the Yankees in that way. The same issues that German is dealing with be put on these guys if you call them up to start earlier than they should (see Chance Adams).

To put this in perspective lets take a look at four pitching prospects who are highly coveted and the closest to Sheffield for being called up in the next year.

First, we will start with Chance Adams whose name has been thrown around for the last two seasons when speaking on the Yankees’ rotation. Adams was held back last year in particular because of his command and lack of a changeup; he was not ready.

Chance Adams (Cheryl Pursell)

You can’t blame the Yankees for holding him either for two reasons. What happened with Luis Severino would have undoubte  dly have happened to Adams. Also, the Yankees were not in huge need for starting pitching last season as they are this season (as crazy as it sounds).

Adams finished his 2017 campaign with the RailRiders holding a 2.89 ERA and totaling 103 strikeouts, good for a 1.08 WHIP. In 2018 Adams sits with a 4.89 ERA through 84 2/3 innings totaling 87 strikeouts and 43 walks.

This year it tends to be the same for Adams, but another thing that many Yankees prospects seem to have in common is their struggle to pitch at least six full frames, which Adams has only done five times this year in his 18 starts (you will find this a common theme for the players I’m about to go over).

Is that necessarily a considerable downside? Not totally. Yes, you can say with the way the MLB is now you only need starters to go six innings, but as the Yankees have seen in recent years, it does take a toll on your bullpen, and it was part of the reason most of Joe Girardi‘s headaches came about.

Compare this to Justus Sheffield who has gone at least six innings seven out of his 16 appearances this season. The point of this? Is Adams an untouchable? Is he what the Yankees need, at least right now? The answer to both of those questions is no; he will be better off in a trade package at this point. If he were to be called up, it would be for bullpen help towards the end of the season.


Josh Rogers (Brian Westerholt/Four Seam Images via AP Images)

The closest realistic option behind Sheffield is his RailRiders teammate Josh Rogers.

Rogers has a 3.95 ERA in 109 1/3 innings pitched, while striking out 83 and walking 29. He has went at least six innings in 12 of his 19 starts this season, similar to his numbers last year going at least six full frames in 11 of his 19 starts before going down with an injury.

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Rogers’ issues tend to be with his struggles to generate swings and misses and having that true third-strike pitch. He tends to get caught up in a fastball-heavy rotation of pitches as well.

Though this is quite a different issue as to not having a third pitch at all, Rogers needs to spend the rest of this season fine-tuning his breaking ball before the Yankees can count on him to help their rotation. He isn’t an ‘untouchable’ prospect, but he is a 4th or 5th starting pitcher in the making. The demand for him isn’t as high and the Yankees could find themselves a new starting pitcher without letting him go.

The next two options are Domingo Acevedo and Albert Abreu.

Starting with Acevedo who pitched in Tampa, Trenton, and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre all last season. He still finds himself with the Thunder in 2018 trying to find the dominant strikeout stuff he had in past years.

Domingo Acevedo delivers against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats on July 2 at ARM & HAMMER Park (Michael Dill)

Ace’ holds a 2.84 ERA through 50 2/3 innings this season and has only struck out 40 batters in those 50 2/3 innings. Acevedo’s main issue throughout his career has been health, and it could be the reason he is treated as a relief pitcher once he hits the majors. He only made three appearances throughout April and May, but he has been healthy through June and July thus far.  As far as pitching, command has been his Achilles heel, but despite what most will say, he does have the three pitches to be a starter.

However, Acevedo is another pitcher in the Yankees’ system who isn’t ready to take that next step. He should soon be with the RailRiders again, but he needs to work on stamina and length into games as well, as those have always been issues following him for the last couple of years as well.

Acevedo’s name has also been thrown around in countless trade talks through the years, so much as if the Yankees wanted to move him they would have by now. Does that mean they won’t, and he will go untouched? Not at all, if anything a trade for Acevedo means him hitting the majors faster at this point. If he is moved, it would be better for the Yankees to include him in a package for a top arm rather than most of the pitchers available at the deadline this season.

Albert Abreu (Mark LoMoglio)

Finally, we have Albert Abreu, who despite only being in High-A some consider him a candidate for the Bronx next season. Yes, Abreu has been held back mainly by injuries, and if not for them he would be in at least Double-A right now. Abreu missed the first month of the season and is currently on the DL again. In his two months of action, he tossed 48 1/3 innings, striking out 52 batters and giving up nine home runs, good for a 4.28 ERA. Besides health, the issue with Abreu is his command and inconsistency with his arsenal, which have been a larger issue than it seems.

Abreu has a great arm, great velocity, great movement when he has it, but besides his fastball, it is anyone’s guess as to what his finishing pitch is going to be (not in a good way). He struggles far too much with runners on base and will rush his delivery noticeably, which in turn leads to his struggle to go further into games.

Abreu, a bit more polished can be a solid arm in the majors, but unlike the pitchers who I just went over, he for sure will not be a starter. However, his value is still somewhat intermediate, and it would be smart for the Yankees to move him as soon as they can. A package featuring Clint Frazier, Miguel Andujar, and Albert Abreu for starters would bring back an arm they need whether it’s at the deadline or this off-season.

To finish, with all of this considered, the Yankees are most likely better off trading Gray and promoting Sheffield. The only way you are moving him is for deGrom, Syndergaard, or possibly Carlos Martinez who is now being linked to the Yankees as well. Besides those three who will immediately put the Yankees in a position not only to win their division, but compete against the Astros, Sheffield is the only one who is off-limits this trade deadline considering the realistic trade options.

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