By JED WEISBERGER
It’s obvious the Yankees need help as starting pitching is concerned. Aside from ace Luis Severino, the rest of the staff has been no more than adequate.
Despite the team’s 37-17 mark, which actually has them in first place by percentage points over the Boston Red Sox after Sunday’s play, CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka and Sonny Gray, the key starters being counted upon, have been inconsistent.
With rookie Domingo German replacing the injured Justin Montgomery in the fifth spot, the Yankees are 12th among 30 Major League Baseball teams so far with a 3.80 ERA. That trails Houston (2.77), Boston (3.65) and The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (3.70) in the American League.
Many point out how much better the Astros’ staff has been, but, on the other hand, with a .259 average, MLB-leading .470 slugging percentage and .808 OPS, has made the difference in many victories, including 5-of-7 against Houston.
But the bullpen has to pick up games in the fourth, fifth or sixth innings too often, which is a dangerous precedent.
Acquiring a pitcher who would strengthen the Yankees rotation is not easy. And bringing in a top starter is both expensive and risky, The Chicago Cubs signed right-hander Yu Darvish to a 6-year, $126 million deal that may not pay off.
“We have to develop our own pitching,” said Yankees general manager Brian Cashman. “It’s not easy to obtain established pitchers. Teams really guard them.’’
Cashman did obtain Gray from Oakland last season for three solid prospects – outfielder Dustin Fowler, who is starting in center field, infielder Jorge Mateo, who is at Triple-A Nashville, and right-hander James Kaprielian, who has not pitched since 2016 due to injuries.
That, however, and Houston’s last-minute acquisition of Justin Verlander at the 2017 trade deadline, are the exception rather than the rule.
Many Yankees fans are hoping Cashman can swing a deal for San Francisco left-hander Madison Bumgarner, who is 28 and an established ace, though one who will make his first appearance of 2018 Tuesday vs. Arizona after recovering from a broken finger.
His salary is a reasonable $12 million for 2018, with a team option of $12 million in 2019. Then he reaches free-agency, Even if the Yankees traded a carload of top prospects, and the Giants would ask for just that, they just might have him through 2019.
Others have suggested Seattle southpaw James Paxton. It’s doubtful he’s going anywhere with the Mariners entering June 3 play in first place by percentage points in the AL West. There is a better chance of seeing Paxton in a wild-card game than in Pinstripes.
The best “ace” bet may be lefty Cole Hamels, whom the lowly Texas Rangers are looking to unload. Hamels, so far in 2018, is 3-5, 3.63, but is durable, has been excellent in the postseason and would fit with what the Yankees need.
He makes, at 34, $23.5 million, with the Phillies paying $2.5 million. He would likely cost in the $11 million neighborhood on that contract for August and September. If the Yankees would then want him back, he has a $20 million team option or a $6 million buyout.
It would not surprise if Cashman brought in a useful veteran, as he did in 2005 with righty Shawn Chacon who went 7-3, 2.85 before flaming out in 2006, and, in 2014, with righty Brandon McCarthy, who was 7-5, 2.89 before signing a 4-year, $48 million contract with the Dodgers that was marred by injury.
Not an easy business.