Pitching coach says Yankees don’t need another starter, manager trusts depth

Yankees manager Aaron Boone and pitching coach Matt Blake at Citizen Bank Park, Philadelphia, in 2023.
John Allen
Thursday January 25, 2024

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Despite prominent pitchers still available in the trade and free agency market, Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake is not convinced that acquiring another star for the rotation is necessary. Speaking to the Daily News, he emphasized the need for depth beyond the regular five-man rotation, stating that a successful season requires comfort with six, seven, eight, and nine pitchers.

Although their primary target, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, eluded them, the Yankees secured Marcus Stroman, joining Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodon, Nestor Cortes, and Clarke Schmidt in the projected rotation. Blake wisely noted that relying on just five arms is insufficient for building a championship-caliber team, citing last year’s challenges with injuries and underperformance in the rotation.

Is the Yankee rotation ready to rumble?

Anticipating a strong comeback from Rodon and Cortes, who faced setbacks in 2023, Blake commended their early commitment to training and positive outlook. However, he acknowledged the inevitability of requiring additional starters. The list of potential candidates mentioned by Blake includes Will Warren, Clayton Beeter, Chase Hampton, Luis Gil, Yoendrys Gómez, Luke Weaver, Cody Poteet, and Cody Morris. While the first three are top prospects yet to make their MLB debut, the others have experience in both starting and relieving roles.

Marcus Stroman joined the New York Yankees on January 11, 2024.
Kathy Willens/Associated Press

While notable pitchers like Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery, and others are available in free agency, the Yankees express confidence in Schmidt, praising his 2023 performance and envisioning a future role in the rotation. General Manager Brian Cashman, while acknowledging the team’s commitment to exploring improvement possibilities, firmly asserts Schmidt’s place in the rotation.

luis-gil-new-york-yankees
AP

Weaver, regarded by Blake as a former top prospect with untapped potential, has the most experience but has encountered struggles throughout his career. Gil and Gómez have limited MLB exposure, with eight combined games.

Regarding the bullpen, Blake acknowledges reported interest in relievers like Hector Neris, Wandy Peralta, and Keynan Middleton but distances himself from internal discussions. He suggests that these pitchers could be valuable additions, aligning with the team’s needs, but emphasizes the importance of considering financial and contractual realities.

Blake offers alternative solutions within the existing roster, pointing to Victor González as a potential replacement for Peralta and highlighting minor league pickups like groundball specialist Yerry De Los Santos. However, he emphasizes that decision-making ultimately lies with the front office, expressing confidence in the current group while remaining open to potential additions.

Yankees manager banks on youth

Acquiring Juan Soto and Alex Verdugo through trades had its price for the Yankees, notably a weakened pitching staff. The departure of seven pitchers, six of whom were potential starters, left significant voids in the rotation. The looming injury risks associated with Carlos Rodon and Nestor Cortes intensify the urgency to secure dependable reinforcements.

Despite the challenges, manager Aaron Boone maintains an optimistic outlook. He asserts that the Yankees effectively replenished depth, highlighting the potential impact of emerging talents like Hayden Warren, Ken Waldichuk, Clayton Beeter, and the returning Luis Gil. The additions of Cody Poteet and Luke Weaver further expand the options, with the latter potentially serving as a sixth starter or long reliever.

Yankees pitchers Carlos Rodon and Nestor Cortes.

However, reservations persist. Among the mentioned prospects, only Weaver possesses considerable major-league experience, with an average ERA of 5.14. Both Poteet, in recovery from Tommy John surgery and Gil, returning from a similar procedure, introduce uncertainties. While highly regarded, Warren, Beeter, and Hampton lack exposure to the highest level of competition. Beeter, already on the 40-man roster, may receive an initial opportunity, but Warren’s impressive 2023 season (3.35 ERA, 149 strikeouts) could influence those plans. Top prospect Hampton, refining his skills in Double-A, might require additional development time.

The 2024 Yankees have undeniably made a bold move, prioritizing offensive firepower at the expense of pitching depth. The success of their young arms stepping up and the ability of veteran players to stay healthy are critical variables. The upcoming season presents a captivating balancing act for the Bronx Bombers, where their championship aspirations hinge on unproven talent flourishing and their injury-prone stars displaying resilience.

As spring training approaches, uncertainty lingers about whether the current Yankees arms are sufficient. Blake trusts his group, but the potential for upgrades continues to be a topic of discussion. The unfolding drama in the Bronx will provide answers as the season progresses.

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