The Yankees have a plethora of pitching options at the MLB level and a superfluous amount of “arms in waiting” in Triple-A ready to pitch in the major leagues at the drop of a hat. Fans see this with the impending vacancy in right field, and feel the Yankees should deal from a position of strength and go after a cost controlled, young stud right fielder. I’m here to tell you they don’t need to make a move in order to clear space for other rising prospects, and that this type of move would actually be a bad idea. Let’s get into it.
Starting with the major leagues, the Yankees have eight options for the rotation. Of those, Pettitte, Garcia, and Kuroda are on one year deals. This leaves five options for the major league team next season. Hughes’ contract ends after the 2013 season, and besides that he may not be a starter for much longer. This leaves Sabathia, Nova, and Pineda as the only definitive options for next season. Hughes and Phelps are options, but there are many questions surrounding these two and they may not be options for 2013. Now that Pineda’s health is a concern, even he is a question mark.
D.J. Mitchell, Adam Warren, Manny Banuelos, and Dellin Betances of Triple-A Empire State will compete with Hughes and Phelps for the last two spots. These players are not guaranteed to be ready. Warren, Banuelos, and Betances have all struggled out of the gate this season, and DJ Mitchell has historically been considered a future reliever. Hughes has had a sluggish start to the season, but Pineda’s injury probably bought him some time. Phelps, Mitchell, and Hughes are the only players who’d be ready for the MLB if the 2013 season started today. The others are all question marks.
The upper minors starting pitching situation is not as much of a logjam as you might expect. There are four legitimate prospect starters in Triple-A right now, with one open slot. There are only two players in Double-A projected to even be Triple-A starters, let alone MLB starters. Those are Brett Marshall and Graham Stoneburner. Stoneburner is currently on the 7-day DL, and we haven’t seen enough of him in Double-A to know whether he’ll be a future starter or not. Marshall should be ready for Triple-A by next season. Shaeffer Hall and Josh Romanski project more as left-handed relief pitchers. The Yankees have to go year to year with Romanski’s contract, so he may not be with the organization next year if other opportunities beckon. Craig Heyer is more of a Lance Pendleton type.
There are also players in High-A Tampa who will probably be in Trenton before the season’s end, and a few more could be there by next season. Nik Turley, a big lefty who throws hard and has great stuff, is mowing down batters in High-A. He’ll likely be in Trenton this season. Mikey O’Brien is another pitcher dominating the competition at this level, and may be in Trenton soon. Shane Greene, Zach Nuding, and Jose Ramirez will stick around longer, but any of them could push their way to Trenton with strong performances.
Now, to summarize. There is currently one starting rotation position available in Triple-A, and two people capable of seizing that spot, but realistically one. There are two to three starting rotation positions that could be occupied in Double-A, and there are two guys looking to occupy those positions soon. If Marshall and Stoneburner get promoted as they should, there will be three slots in Double-A for Greene, Nuding, and Ramirez next season.
With the major league team in need of back of the rotation pitching and, as always, relievers, next season some of the starters in Triple-A will undoubtedly be with the major league team. This adds more space to the rotation there. Assuming only one of the Triple-A starters gets promoted, there’s room for both Marshall and Stoneburner next season.
Long story short, the team is two seasons away from having a logjam that would prevent appropriate promotions. This cannot be used as a reason to trade some of the starting pitching depth.
There are a few sayings that apply here. The first is “you can never have enough pitching.” Another is “a position of strength and depth can turn into a position of weakness at the drop of a hat.” We saw this at catcher in the preseason. The team went from having an abundance of upper level catching talent to having no major league ready catchers behind Francisco Cervelli. This led to the trade of Kontos for Stewart, which has worked out well. At the time it looked like Stewart would be a downgrade from Cervelli though.
You can never have enough pitching because pitchers get hurt. They are delicate and can lose a season with one awkward pitch. They go down with nagging injuries that force them to miss starts, etc. Not only that, but pitchers are prone to inconsistency and failure. Even Tim Lincecum has struggled out of the gate this season. As a matter of fact, the Yankees are having trouble with this right now. There’s talk of replacing Hughes and Garcia in the rotation with Pettitte and Pineda.
In order to obtain a young, cost controlled, Nick Swisher caliber right fielder or a young catcher for that matter, the team would have to part ways with a considerable package of prospects. This likely means Banuelos (teams aren’t that interested in Betances anymore), and more pitching depth. Couple this with losing three MLB starters after this season, and all of a sudden the depth for 2013 is obliterated. Obviously if the perfect trade comes along you jump on it, but those opportunities are few and far between.
A closer examination of the pitching depth in this organization shows us that this is not yet the time to trade from a position of power. The major league team is riddled with one year contracts and question marks. There are only a few legitimate options from the minor leagues for the back end of the rotation in 2013. The minor leagues are not yet in a state of logjam so as to necessitate a trade, and finally, the cost of a young, cost controlled right fielder or catcher would kill the team’s depth. Not only is a trade uneccessary, it is actually a big time no-no.