Heyman: Yankees Pursuing Starting Rotation Depth

9:26 PM: The Yankees never reached out to Miley before he signed, according to Andy Martino at SNY.

Note: As soon as I proofread this piece, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported the Houston Astros signed Wade Miley to a one-year deal. Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported the deal is worth $4.5 million. What I wrote about Miley has been italicized.

Despite having five starters locked in for the 2019 season, the Yankees are continuing to look into depth options as the beginning of Spring Training comes closer. Jon Heyman at Fancred Sports tweeted today that the team is “considering adding a starter” with 13 days to go until camp opens.

Among the possibilities, according to Heyman: Gio González, Wade Miley and Ervin Santana. Someone from that group of players would be added in order to supplement the existing sixth-starter depth, which includes Chance Adams, Luis Cessa, Domingo Germán and Jonathan Loáisiga.

The Yankees got caught without sufficient depth in 2018, where they had to acquire both J.A. Happ and Lance Lynn ahead of the trade deadline to replace an ineffective Sonny Gray and injured Jordan Montgomery. They got 24 starts from the Adams/Cessa/Germán/Loáisiga group and Loáisiga was the only member to have an ERA under 3.00 (as a starter). Adding a higher-quality option that won’t cost a prospect some service time isn’t the worst idea, depending on the price of the deal.

González started 2018 in Washington on the final club option year of the 5-year, $42 million extension he signed in 2011. He pitched to a 4.57 ERA (4.25 FIP) in 27 starts for the Nationals before being flipped at the Aug. 31 playoff eligibility deadline to the Brewers. He made five starts down the stretch, allowing just six earned runs in his 25⅓ innings as a Brewer. He suffered a high left ankle sprain in Game 4 of the NLCS against the Dodgers. González saw his fastball spin-rate drop in 2018, but the Yankees likely would have him throw fewer fastballs anyway. In 2018, González relied on 4 pitches: Four Seamer (29.3%), Sinker (27.1%), Changeup (22.9%), Curve (20.7%).

Santana would likely require a simple minor-league contract after only making five starts in 2018. He had capsular release/debridement surgery on the MCP joint of his right middle finger in February, and complications allowed just those five starts in 2018. Santana lost 4 MPH on his fastball while attempting his comeback, which probably explains why the Twins shut him down. The Twins declined his $14 million option for 2019 and paid him a $1 million buyout. Santana was an All-Star in 2017, making 33 starts with a 3.28 ERA (4.46 FIP). That year, he relied on 4 pitches: Slider (36.9%), Four Seamer (33%), Sinker (19.9%), Changeup (10.2%).

Miley was part of Craig Counsell‘s whacky pitching project in Milwaukee. After being bought out of his 2018 option by Baltimore, he landed in Milwaukee on a minor-league deal with a Spring Training invite. He wound up creating a remarkable bounce-back story, making 16 starts to a 2.57 ERA (3.59 FIP) for the Brew Crew. The secret appears to be his increased cutter usage, which grew from 14.3% in 2017 to 41.4% in 2018. In this past campaing, Miley relied on 6 pitches: Cutter (41.4%), Curve (18.6%), Changeup (16.6%), Four Seamer (10.6%), Sinker (9.9%), Slider (2.8%). The issue with Miley might be sample size, as the 32-year-old spent two months and four days on the disabled list with a right oblique strain.

A question to ask is: why wouldn’t the Yankees aim high, and try to sign Dallas Keuchel? I would imagine that Keuchel wouldn’t agree to join a team where he was not guaranteed a rotation spot. He does not seem like the type who would wait and see if someone got hurt. Also, some team is going to pay him more money and for more years than the Yankees would for someone who would be their No. 6 starter.

Each of these pitchers would likely come in on a cheap one-year deal if the Yankees can keep the guarantee low. They would be able to provide solid pitching depth while also keeping some innings off the arms of the younger talents in the Yankees’ farm system. A cheap sixth starter or long reliever would be a fantastic insurance policy for a team that found out how important depth was just last season.

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