The New York Yankees’ six-game loss to the Houston Astros in the ALCS was not all about their pitching. They also had trouble putting a bat on the baseball, and injuries up and down the roster didn’t help.
But let’s be real: the Yankees need help in their starting rotation.
CC Sabathia is retiring, Masahiro Tanaka just underwent elbow surgery and who knows what is going to happen with Domingo German, who was suspended for a domestic violence incident.
The good news for New York is that there is a good crop of available starting pitchers in free agency this offseason.
Here are five starters the Yankees should pursue:
6. Wade Miley
Wade Miley is your prototypical No. 4 starter, as he eats innings and generally posts respectable numbers year in and year out.
He is also a lefty, and with Sabathia’s departure, the Yankees may need another one. Yes, Jordan Montgomery will have a chance to win a rotation spot in spring training, but the kid has barely pitched the last two seasons.
Miley spent 2019 with the Houston Astros, going 14-6 with a 3.98 ERA. Through 167.1 innings of work, he allowed 164 hits while striking out 140 batters, which are solid numbers.
His 1.345 WHIP is a bit concerning, but again, this is a back-end-of-the-rotation starter we are talking about here, and Miley has proven he can at least fill that role since entering the majors in 2011 (he owns a lifetime 4.23 ERA).
Most importantly, he likely won’t be all that expensive.
5. Jake Odorizzi
Jake Odorizzi was quietly one of the better pitchers in the American League this season, which makes the Minnesota Twins’ decision to push him back to Game 3 of the ALDS against the Yankees all the more perplexing.
Over 30 starts, Odorizzi went 15-7 with a 3.51 ERA, surrendering 139 hits while fanning 178 hitters across 159 frames. He also posted an impressive 3.36 FIP and made his first All-Star team.
While the 29-year-old right-hander has consistently been solid for a while now, this was quite easily his best season, and he could end up earning a rather hefty pay day this offseason as a result.
Will the Yankees will be willing to pay up for a pitcher who is not quite elite? It remains to be seen, but if New York misses out on top options like Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, Odorizzi could be a great fallback option.
4. Hyun-Jin Ryu
This is a good news, bad news type of thing.
The bad news is that Hyun-Jin Ryu has a rather checkered injury history and missed extensive time from 2016 through 2018. The good news is that when healthy, Ryu is terrific, as he showed this year by going 14-5 with a National League-best 2.32 ERA.
There is a heck of a lot to like about Ryu, but his biggest selling point is his control.
The lefty issued just 24 walks this season, leading the league in walks per nine innings (in a good way). He also posted a sparkling 6.79 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
But will Brian Cashman overlook his injuries when potentially offering him a deal? Cashman has historically been very picky when it comes to pitchers, but after failing to make the World Series yet again, he might take a gamble this offseason, and Ryu would be a good one.
3. Stephen Strasburg
The Washington Nationals stud has a player option for next season, but more than likely, Stephen Strasburg will opt out.
Strasburg carries similar risks to Ryu, but just not quite as bad.
He has a history of arm trouble, but this year, Strasburg threw 209 innings, going 18-6 with a 3.32 ERA. He racked up 251 strikeouts, and his 1.038 WHIP is incredibly impressive.
On top of that, Strasburg has proven to be a big-game pitcher, as he has gone 5-2 with a 1.34 ERA over eight playoff starts.
He will be rather pricey, and this season marked the first time he made 30 starts since 2014, but there is no denying this man’s talent.
2. Gerrit Cole
The Yankees came very close to acquiring Gerrit Cole ahead of the 2018 campaign, but the Pittsburgh Pirates up the ante in trade talks at the last minute, and New York backed out because it did not want to include Gleyber Torres (some say the Yanks also did not want to give up Miguel Andujar, but who knows what actually happened).
The Pirates than traded Cole to the Astros, and Cole has turned into arguably the game’s most dominant pitcher ever since.
Cole led the American League in both ERA (2.50) and strikeouts (326) this season, and his ridiculous 2.64 FIP and 6.79 strikeout-to-walk ratio only adds to his legend.
Of course, Houston will do whatever it possibly can to re-sign him, and he may also end up being the most expensive starting pitcher in MLB history, which is a big reason why he is second on this list rather than first.
Cole may command a seven or eight-year deal, and for pitchers, that is always risky, regardless of how good they are at the time of the contract.
1. Madison Bumgarner
I’m not sure there is a pitcher in all of baseball you would rather have on the mound in a playoff game than Madison Bumgarner.
He may not be the same pitcher he was a few years ago before some freak injuries occurred (a dirt bike accident and Bumgarner being hit in the hand with a line drive), but make no mistake: he is still one of the best pitchers in baseball.
His numbers in 2019 were rather modest, as he went 9-9 with a 3.90 ERA, giving up 191 hits while registering 203 punchouts through 207.2 innings.
Still, you don’t think he would have made a difference for the Yankees in the postseason this year?
Bumgarner has gone 8-3 with a 2.11 ERA across 16 playoff appearances and 14 starts, and in five World Series appearances (four starts), he has gone an inhuman 4-0 with 0.25 ERA (no, that is not a typo).
The San Francisco Giants seemed intent on re-signing Bumgarner earlier this season, but since then, that chatter has died down, with some speculating that has become more likely that the 30-year-old lefty will test the market.
If Bumgarner does, indeed, decide to leave the Bay, the Yankees would be remiss not to be first in line for his services.