The New York Yankees need to spend money. Yes. I seriously just said that about the team that has historically spent more money than any other franchise in the sport.
The Yankees were bounced out of the ALCS by the Houston Astros for the second time in three years last month, and while there were a lot of factors at play in New York’s loss, one thing that really stood out was the Yanks’ lack of starting pitching.
Outside of Masahiro Tanaka, who is a playoff warrior, the Yankees don’t really have any reliable starters in the postseason.
James Paxton is only decent. Luis Severino is talented, but he doesn’t exactly have the best playoff track record, and he missed most of 2019 with arm trouble, anyway. CC Sabathia is retiring. J.A. Happ is, well, J.A. Happ.
For all of the talk about how much New York spends, it hasn’t really opened its checkbook for a starting pitcher in quite some time.
To be fair, Brian Cashman has done an incredible job. He has assembled a heck of a ballclub that has won 100 games in back-to-back years and should undeniably be a World Series contender next season.
Heck, if the Astros end up losing Gerrit Cole this winter, the Yankees should probably be World Series favorites.
But as great as Cashman has been, he has still failed to get his team what it needs most: a front line starter.
Last offseason, the Yanks acquired Paxton in a trade with the Seattle Mariners and didn’t do much else to address the starting rotation. It re-signed Happ, a move that proved to be a bust. Otherwise, that was pretty much it.
To be fair, it’s not like Cashman had a ton of options available, but don’t tell that to Yankees fans, who expect greatness year in and year out (even though the Yanks have won just one World Series since 2001, but I digress).
This winter, however, Cashman will have options. Plenty of them.
There is Cole. There is Stephen Strasburg. There is Madison Bumgarner. There are numerous other really good starters who aren’t necessarily big names, like Hyun-Jin Ryu and Jake Odorizzi.
Basically, Cashman has a plethora of choices on his plate this time around, and if he once again does not get what his team needs, it won’t look very good in the eyes of the New York faithful nor the media.
The thing with the Yankees is that they really are just one or two pieces away from being a juggernaut. Health provided, of course.
Just look at the lineup. Giancarlo Stanton. Aaron Judge. Gleyber Torres. D.J. Lemahieu. The list goes on and on, not to mention the fact that New York’s bullpen is also nails.
Now, to be fair, Stanton missed just about all of this season, and Judge was sidelined for a good portion of 2018 and 2019. But assuming those two guys are healthy, the Yanks’ lineup should be lethal in 2020.
Still, without elite starting pitching, it might not matter how great the Yankees’ offense is.
Pitching wins championships. It has been proven time and time again.
And look: I get the analytics movement. I like analytics myself, and they certainly should play a role in how a front office evaluates talent and build its team. But relying too heavily on them can spell disaster.
Just ask Billy Beane.
That’s what Cashman seems to be doing at the moment. It’s exactly why he went out and acquired a strikeout artist in Paxton last year without having to pay through the nose for a legitimate ace.
Of course, owner Hal Steinbrenner has been controlling costs, as well, very much unlike his late father, George, but I also find it somewhat hard to believe that he would not be okay with the Yankees spending on a top-of-the-line starter when the team desperately needs one.
The point is that the Yanks have been consistently failing to reach their ultimate goal since 2010, and over the past three years, it’s obvious that they have been outclassed by an Astros team that was willing to go out and land Justin Verlander and Cole, not to mention Zack Greinke (who admittedly did not want to play in New York).
The Yankees can’t keep allowing this to happen. Not with such an impressive nucleus of talent that could develop into a dynasty so long as Cashman makes the right moves over the next couple of years.
But it starts this offseason, and it starts with biting the bullet and paying up for a starting pitcher.
Cole, Strasburg, Bumgarner, whoever. The Yankees need to get somebody, and it might be time to start valuing results and playoff acumen over analytics for a change.