The Yankees are aiming to put a majority of their offseason focus into improving their pitching staff for 2019. That search will be centered on a pair of lefties – Patrick Corbin and J.A. Happ, according to Fancred’s Jon Heyman. Having more than one strong lefty in the Yankee rotation would help neutralize lefty bats that often target the right-field porch at Yankee Stadium.
Patrick Corbin – 11-7, 3.15 ERA (2.47 FIP), 11.07 K/9, 2.16 BB/9, 6.3 fWAR
By WAR, Corbin was the third-best qualified pitcher in the National League behind stunning seasons from the Mets’ Jacob deGrom and the Nationals’ Max Scherzer. His 48.5% ground-ball rate was sixth-best in the National League, and would’ve been second-best on the 2018 Yankees (minimum 50 innings) behind Sonny Gray‘s 50%. Obviously, Gray wasn’t as successful as Corbin, but Gray walked close to two more batters per nine than Corbin and struck out three batters less per nine. Simply put, Corbin misses bats and can avoid the big hit despite an NL-leading 41.7% hard contact rate amongst qualified pitchers. If it’s hit hard, but on the ground, a well-positioned infield can get you an out. There will be an obvious learning curve with a jump from the National League West to the American League East, but I think Corbin is up to it.
J.A. Happ – 17-6, 3.65 ERA (3.98 FIP), 9.78 K/9, 2.58 BB/9, 3.2 fWAR
At first glance, Happ’s stats are not as strong as Corbin’s, but are still impressive. What I appreciate most from Happ is that he put this line up against the formidable American League East with the pressure of a New York Yankees postseason run on his shoulders. Happ was filthy down the stretch and provided incredible value for the Yankees when he went 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA in 11 starts. Age is the only big concern for the lefty. Happ is 36 now, but showed how he can still be effective for at least a few more seasons.
In a perfect world, the Yanks are able to haul both of these southpaws in as free agents with room to keep building the team. Heyman listed Nathan Eovaldi, Gio González, Dallas Keuchel, Wade Miley, Charlie Morton, Hyun-jin Ryu and CC Sabathia as other options should the Yankees fail to sign either Corbin or Happ. He also mentioned Clayton Kershaw but the lefty just agreed to a 3-year, $93 million extension with the Dodgers as expected.