The New York Yankees lineup consists of players like Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius, Miguel Andujar, and Gleyber Torres who are currently on fire. The list of hitters who have struggled to begin the season is comprised of reigning National League Most Valuable Player Giancarlo Stanton, All-Star catcher Gary Sanchez, and veteran leader Brett Gardner. That’s an impressive list that does not even include injured high-upside players such as Greg Bird and Brandon Drury.
Yes, this Yankee team can hit and would probably carry the club to win the American League East without making a single acquisition. However, it’s performing in the playoffs that is an area of concern. Simply put, pitching and defense win championships. We have seen lineups time and time again fail to score runs in the postseason as a direct result of a combination of untimely hitting, strikeouts, and a lack of power production. It has been proven that you are not going to consistently put up four or more runs against the elite pitching staffs of the Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians, and Boston Red Sox.
Luis Severino and CC Sabathia have anchored the otherwise inconsistent starting rotation by pitching excellent; both lead the Yankees rotation in ERA, WHIP, and opponent batting average against. Severino is the Yankees ‘ace’, their number one, and the ‘go-to guy’ for a good reason. The Dominican Republic native finished third in the 2017 Cy Young Award voting and currently owns a 4-1 record, 0.89 WHIP, and 2.61 ERA this season. Sabathia sports a 2-0 record, 1.71 ERA, and the lowest opponent exit velocity in the majors thus far in 2018.
Then comes the significant drop-off in performance with Sonny Gray, Masahiro Tanaka, and Jordan Montgomery. Gray owns a 7.71 ERA and has just looked like a shell of his former self thus far this season. Tanaka has turned in a pair of good starts recently, lowering his earned run average to 4.37. He has been very inconsistent dating back to last season. Montgomery is pitching the best of the trio but is the odd man out if another starter is acquired.
Defensively, New York has looked atrocious in the field. The team leads the majors in errors with 25, owns the worst fielding percentage in the big leagues (.975), and has a -1.3 defensive rating on FanGraphs.com which ranks them 20th out of the 20 Major League teams. The defense will improve under the watch of quality control coach Carlos Mendoza, however, only slightly. It’s unreasonable and near impossible to make an average or even somewhat above average player great in the field. With repetition and practice Andujar, Stanton, and Sanchez are a few players who will start to improve.
So, what is the solution you might ask? Who is the missing piece to a championship?
Well, it’s Detroit Tigers ace, Michael Fulmer.
Fulmer should be the number one target for general manager Brian Cashman and company from now until the July 31st trading deadline. As previously stated, this lineup can mash, and therefore there is no need to change personnel in that aspect. That means the defensive production will stay about the same. The rotation is the one big area where there is an opportunity for improvement.
In a five to seven-game series, World Series contenders genuinely need four starters that are reliable and consistent. The Yankees have two, and one of the pair’s analytical performance sharply declines after just 65 pitches. Severino can go toe-to-toe with any other team’s number one, Sabathia would be a great number three, and Tanaka four. This means that it’s the two spot that’s in dire need of an upgrade.
To be fair, that is what Cashman thought he was getting in Sonny Gray, however, to date last season’s significant acquisition just hasn’t worked out. Time is ticking, and the end of July will be here before you know it.
Flumer checks all the boxes. He is young, controllable, has shown that he can pitch well in the American League, and is the player that beat out Sanchez in the 2016 Rookie of the Year voting. The 25-year old owns a career 3.39 ERA for a terrible Tigers team.
In two of his starts this season, the Edmond, Oklahoma native faced the Pittsburgh Pirates and allowed just one run on eight hits and a pair of walks. In 14 innings pitched, he struck out 12 batters and was given zero run support. Not a single run.
Detroit GM Al Avila will unquestionably get a significant haul for the hard-throwing righty, but if the Yankees are serious about competing with Houston, Cleveland, or Boston in the American League, they need to meet the asking price.