The New York Yankees have put together a strong, well-rounded team in 2023. The addition of Juan Soto will strike fear into opposing pitchers, as the duo of the Dominican slugger and Aaron Judge, the American League Home Run King, will be a nightmare to navigate. Unfortunately, it is possible the Yankees’ rotation could be the team’s Achilles heel. Gerrit Cole is a superstar, but the team doesn’t have a true No. 2 to complement Cole at this time.

Carlos Rodon's performance can make or break New York’s rotation in 2024. If Rodon plays up to his own standards, he can be an elite No. 2 option and even a possible co-ace to pair with Cole. This is why Rodon holds the key to the team's ability to compete for a championship in 2024.

Cole is the ace, but Rodon might make or break the Yankees’ rotation

 New York Yankees starting pitcher Gerrit Cole (45) and starting pitcher Carlos Rodon (55) talk during spring training practice at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Gerrit Cole is the undisputed ace of the Yankees, and he is even more than that. Cole might be the best pitcher on the planet right now. Behind Cole are several question marks. Nestor Cortés Jr. has high-end talent, but he has struggled with injuries, and that has sometimes led to inconsistency.

Off-season acquisition Marcus Stroman is a good pitcher, but his best years are behind him. Even when he was at his peak, he was still likely a secondary option, a #2 pitcher rather than an ace.

The Yankees had several promising pitchers in their pipeline, but they traded away much of their pitching depth and top-end prospects in order to acquire Juan Soto. Michael King, who headlined the deal that brought Soto to New York, had electric stuff and was just starting to find his place on the Yankees staff. Drew Thorpe was one of the team’s most promising young arms, and likely would have played a significant role in this year’s rotation if he hadn't been dealt in the transaction that brought the slugger from the Dominican Republic to the Bronx.

Even though Thorpe was widely considered to be their best pitching prospect, the Bombers were able to avoid including Chase Hampton in the deal. Unfortunately for New York, Hampton likely still needs some more seasoning in the minors and it is unclear just how effective he will be in the big leagues. There is a chance he spends all of 2024 in the upper minor leagues and doesn’t make his debut until next season.

As for the pitchers currently locked into spots in the big league rotation, Cortez and Stroman are excellent #3 and #4 options. Unfortunately, things look quite a bit dicey here if you were relying on them to be the #2 and #3 options. Unless Cortes is at his best, the team as currently constructed does not have a true #2 to complement Cole.

If Carlos Rodon can get back to being the player that the Yankees thought they were acquiring when they signed him and free agency, this problem is solved, and the Yankees’ rotation suddenly looks like the best in all of baseball. If Rodon can become the player that he used to be, he’ll form a deadly one-two punch with Gerrit Cole that will give the Yankees the upper hand in just about any playoff series.

Rodon already looks as if his velocity is closer to what it used to be. Last season, his velocity was sitting 2 to 3 mph slower than where it should have been. This drew some concerns early, although he got the benefit of the doubt until the problem could no longer be ignored. So far in spring training, the early returns are positive.

Potential offseason additions to the pitching staff didn't materialize

The Yankees had multiple chances to add elite pitching to their roster this offseason, but for multiple reasons, they were unable to do so.

First, they attempted to sign star international free agent Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who was being posted from Japan. Ultimately, they did not end up signing the much-hyped Japanese player. The Yankees claimed that they did not think Yamamoto was worth more than Gerrit Cole, which is a defensible argument.

However, even if they had matched or exceeded the Los Angeles Dodgers’ bid, it is unclear that Yamamoto had any intention of signing with anyone else but the Dodgers. The presence of Shohei Ohtani may have sealed the deal for Los Angeles and shut the door on any hopes the Yankees had of signing Yamamoto.

Brian Cashman’s insistence on not parting with further star prospects such as Spencer Jones prevented the Yankees from trading for Corbin Burnes, and will likely keep them from making deals for Dylan Cease or Shane Bieber.

Jordan Montgomery and Blake Snell are both still available on the free agent market, but it doesn’t appear the Yankees have much interest in spending more money given that they are already over the Cohen Tax, which means that every additional dollar they spend will be taxed at 110%.

If Rodon is able to find himself again and perform at an ace or near-ace level, the Yankees pitching staff will be formidable and they won’t regret their failure to add any other pitchers.

However, if Rodon struggles again, the team may wish they had brought in Snell or traded for either Burnes or Cease.