Clarke Schmidt’s future: A valuable asset or trade fodder?

Clarke Schmidt, player of the New York Yankees.

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As the New York Yankees enter the offseason, the hot stove is already sizzling with speculation about potential roster changes. One of the names swirling in the trade rumors is Clarke Schmidt, a young pitcher who completed his first full season as a starter in 2023. With the emergence of exciting prospects like Drew Thorpe, Richard Fitts, and Clayton Beeter in Double-A, and the presence of trade chatter surrounding Yamamoto, the question that looms large is: Should the Yankees trade Schmidt for offensive firepower in a thin free-agent market?

Clarke Schmidt’s 2023 season

Clarke Schmidt, player of the New York Yankees.

Clarke Schmidt, a 27-year-old right-handed pitcher, is a tantalizing figure for the Yankees. As a former first-round pick, he possesses undeniable pedigree, and his current status as an arbitration-eligible player makes him relatively affordable. With team control secured through 2027, the decision to trade him becomes even more complex.

Clarke Schmidt’s 2023 season was a mixed bag, making it challenging to determine his true worth. He started 32 games, pitching 159.0 innings with an ERA of 4.64, a FIP of 4.42, a strikeout rate of 21.5%, a walk rate of 6.6%, and 1.36 home runs allowed per nine innings. Statcast data doesn’t paint a rosy picture either, revealing that Clarke Schmidt lacks the high velocity, strikeout rate, or hard-contact suppression that many teams covet in today’s game.

However, his walk rate stands out as a positive attribute, suggesting a level of control that could be harnessed to his advantage. While his numbers are far from elite, some teams may believe there is untapped potential within Clarke Schmidt. Trading him could yield a player in a similar situation—middling results and metrics, potentially considered a project.

One potential trade partner could be the St. Louis Cardinals, who are in dire need of rotation depth and possess a surplus of young outfielders. A one-for-one trade might make sense for both teams, with the Yankees aiming to bolster their outfield depth and the Cardinals seeking pitching reinforcement. Yet, it’s essential to manage expectations. Trading Clarke Schmidt is unlikely to net an impact bat, but it could be a move for future value and depth.

The idea of trading Clarke Schmidt has been subject to debate among fans and analysts. While there were moments when his value appeared to be soaring, especially between May and July, there was also a late-season slump that brought his overall performance back to earth. However, it’s crucial to acknowledge the strides Schmidt made in his first full season as a starter.

In 2023, Clarke Schmidt logged 32 starts, culminating in a 4.64 ERA, a 4.42 FIP, and a 1.35 WHIP. Impressively, he recorded 149 strikeouts in 159 innings, a respectable achievement for a budding starting pitcher. This was all the more remarkable considering his shaky start to the season, which saw him post a 6.84 ERA in his first six outings.

Clarke Schmidt’s ability to rebound from that early-season struggle and become the Yankees’ second-best pitcher during the middle months of the season speaks volumes about his resilience and potential. His controllable status through 2027 provides the Yankees with a valuable asset in an era where cheap starting pitching is in high demand.

Evaluating the Yankees’ depth

However, the Yankees’ farm system is bursting with highly-touted prospects who have generated considerable buzz as they’ve risen through the ranks. This depth of young talent shouldn’t automatically push the team toward trading Clarke Schmidt, but it does present a unique opportunity. With an abundance of left-handed hitters in their ranks, the Yankees might find a suitable trade partner eager to exchange offense for Schmidt’s potential.

The prospect of revisiting negotiations with the St. Louis Cardinals could lead to a more equitable trade for both parties. The Yankees may look to balance their roster, adding impactful offense in exchange for a pitcher with the potential to excel but who is not yet a proven star.

The decision regarding Clarke Schmidt’s future with the New York Yankees is far from straightforward. While he has shown promise and resilience in his first full season as a starter, his performance has been inconsistent. The team must weigh the potential benefits of retaining a controllable young arm against the allure of bolstering their offense in an offseason with limited free-agent options.

The Yankees have options aplenty, with a cadre of exciting prospects waiting in the wings. Whether Clarke Schmidt stays or goes, the Yankees will be navigating a critical juncture in their quest for championship glory. The baseball world will be watching closely as the Yankees weigh their options and plot the course for the 2024 season.

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