Thursday night’s big baseball news was it Yankees adding lefty Carlos Rodon to their rotation . After retaining Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo, the next major box to check this offseason for Brian Cashman’s front office was adding a huge arm to the rotation and he’s done it.
The Yankees now have a five-man rotation with a very high pitch, but there are questions all along. Let’s dig deeper.
Upside: We’ve all seen it. Cole is arguably the best pitcher in baseball not (yet) to beat Sir Young. He has finished second in the voting twice and has four finishes in the top five. He has twice led the majors in strikeouts and led the AL with a 2.50 ERA in 2019. On any given day he takes the ball, he is able to hold his team on a dominant outing. This is an ace, easily.
the question: Being such a dominant pitcher, why would he give up so much home runs? He led the AL with 33 homers allowed last season. He has allowed a home run in all of his three starts and, in fact, has given up at least one home run in the last nine playoff games dating back to 2019. The long ball problem was the main reason he was inconsistent last season, generally going 3.50. ERA (111 ERA+, the worst since leaving Pittsburgh by a wide margin).
Upside: In his last two seasons, Rodón has made 55 starts and is 27-13 with a 2.67 ERA (157 ERA+), a 0.998 WHIP, and 422 strikeouts for 87 unforced walks in 310 2/3 innings pitched. On an average basis, he was one of the best and most dominant pitchers in baseball. He’s a left-handed ace standing tall next to Cole’s right!
Oh, and here’s a good stat: In four-pitch fastball whiff average (minimum 1,000 pitches) last season, Cole was No. 1 and Rodon was No. 2 in all-baseball. Yankees have the heat.
the question: Rodon dealt with shoulder injuries in 2016 and 2021 and had Tommy John surgery in between. This means that, by season, he started 12, 20, 7, and 2 games, respectively, from 2017-20. In 2021, it looked like his career year, but he managed just 23 runs in five matches after August 7th. As noted, shoulder injury was a concern. Even as he made 31 starts last season, he averaged 5 2/3 runs per start, adding as many as 178 on the season. That was his career high.
Can he stay in action all season, and if he does, will he still be at full strength going into the playoffs? Or will he wear out in October and falter when the Yankees need him most?
Upside: We just saw it! Nasty Nestor was a superstar in 2022, making the All-Star team and finishing eighth in AL Cy Young voting. He is able to ace through the lineup two or even three times. If he gets third in a playoff run, it would be reasonable to expect him to hold his own or even come out on top a good number of times.
the question: Is it repeatable?
Curtis was not very well received. The Yankees lost him in the Rule 5 draft to Orioles Then the Orioles brought him back the following April. Then it was traded with sailors “For future considerations,” he struck minor league free agency and re-signed with the Yankees. 2021 has started in the minors.
He was a full-time starter last year, but had 28 starts and 158 1/3 innings pitched. He had a difficult period during the middle of the season as well. It’s good that he’s just the three rather than relying on him as an ace, but there is still some concern that 2022 will end up being a difficult season for South Pau.
Upside: Two-time All-Star finishes 3rd and 9th in Cy Young voting to his credit. In those two seasons, he was 33-14 with a 3.18 ERA (137 ERA+), 1.09 WHIP and 450 strikeouts in 384 2/3 innings pitched. He showed a lot of that upside last season, too, when he was 7-3 with a 3.18 ERA (123 ERA+), 1.00 WHIP and 112 strikeouts in 102 innings pitched. He looked like his old self when he was on the hill.
the question: Again, it stays on the hill. Those seasons were at the Ace level in 2017-18. He made just three starts in 2019, zero in 2020 and appeared in four offseason games in 2021. Last year, he was out between July 13 and September 21. Much of his career was hampered by arm problems, including shoulder problems and then Tommy John surgery, the latter of which came with several setbacks during his rehabilitation. Last year, it was a blitzkrieg.
He can be cool when he’s playing. He also has zero 200-run seasons, and only two more seasons than his last 102-run season, most recently in 2018. There should be concern about him making it to the full season, and then, if he does, how well he’d hold up through a playoff run potentially deep.
Upside: The fifth man out of five on this list to light an ace on the upside, Montas looked like a Cy Young candidate in 2019. Through 16 starts, he was 9-2 with a 2.63 ERA (164 ERA+), 1.12 WHIP and 103 strikeouts in 96 pitches. a tour. In 2021, Montas finished sixth in AL Cy Young voting with a strong all-around season (3.37 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 207 K, 187 IP, 3.6 WAR). In the last year before he was traded to the Yankees, he had a 3.18 ERA with 109 strikeouts in 104 2/3 innings pitched.
questions: That the aforementioned 2019 season? Yes, it suddenly stopped because he was suspended for a PED violation. Then it was bad in 2020.
In eight starts for the Yankees, after the trade, last season, he had a 6.35 ERA. It was only 6 2/3 innings pitched, but he has a brutal 9.45 Playoff ERA.
At a minimum here, we’re dealing with inconsistency, as well as a shoulder injury last season.
When he’s good, he’s great, but his record is littered with landmines. What version will the 2023 Yankees have for most of the season? What about when it matters most?
Altogether, the Yankees have a turn that is capable, when things are pie in the sky, of looking like five aces. It’s also not hard to see the stretches where they have several members of the rotation on the injured list while at least one other is struggling to keep running off the plate. It can be a roller coaster for the season with this set. Most roller coasters are fun, and there are enough climbs here to think this would be one of the best courses in baseball.
The Yankees haven’t won an AL pennant since 2009 and that’s been the ages for this franchise. They’ve made it to the ALCS three times in the past six seasons and have been eliminated all of them before Houston Astros. The reigning World Series champions will have a very strong rotation next season, but they lost Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander while the Yankees brought in someone who could push for the Cy Young Award. They now aim to dethrone their opponent and finally return to the World Championship. They have an upward tendency to get the job done, but they’ll need to answer a lot of questions in the process.
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