Friday, April 19, 2024

Yankees trade options: Which pitchers could replace Gerrit Cole now with Dylan Cease off the table?

The New York Yankees don’t yet know how long they’ll be without ace and reigning American League Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole, but considering his importance to their rotation and their chances for a bounce-back season in 2024, they’re no doubt making contingency plans. 

Speaking of which, Cole’s elbow injury, which could put him on the bench for at least a month, prompted some rumors that the Yankees were back in on Dylan Cease trade discussions. Shortly thereafter, however, the Padres swung a deal for the White Sox ace, which means the Yankees must move on to other options. Given that Jordan Montgomery and Blake Snell remain on the free-agent market, the working assumption is that Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner doesn’t have the appetite for what still figures to be nine-figure commitments to those arms. 

So where does that leave the Cole-less Yanks? Despite their effectively limitless resources, it leaves them looking for less costly solutions, whether via trade or free agency. Speaking of which, the New York Post’s Jon Heyman reports that the Yankees have “checked in” on free-agent right-hander Michael Lorenzen, who will come at a much lower cost than either Montgomery or Snell. Coming into the offseason, CBS Sports didn’t rank Lorenzen as one of the top 50 available free agents. The 32-year-old right-hander is coming off a 2023 season in which he pitched to a 4.18 ERA and 2.36 K/BB ratio in 153 combined innings for the Tigers and Phillies. Prior to the trade to Philly, Lorenzen earned his first All-Star nod, but with the Phillies he struggled to get similar results, albeit across a smaller sample. While Lorenzen would help the depth situation in the Bronx, his addition would certainly qualify as a half-measure when it comes to covering for Cole’s dominating absence. 

So perhaps the Yankees will turn to the now Cease-less trade market. Unfortunately for GM Brian Cashman and Yankee rooters, said trade market isn’t particularly inspiring. Veteran lefty Drew Smyly of the Cubs is owed $11 million, and right now he’s not in line to be a member of the Cubs’ rotation. Still, Chicago may be hesitant given Jameson Taillon’s back problems, and that’s to say nothing of the fact that Smyly wouldn’t exactly be a needle-moving addition for the Yankees. Elsewhere, there’s 13-year vet Jordan Lyles of the Royals. The Royals may be looking to get out from under his $8.5 million commitment given their spending elsewhere and given Lyles’ struggles of 2023. Again, though, what does Lyles actually do for the Yankees? Not much, probably. 

On a more speculative front, would the Guardians consider parting with long-time ace Shane Bieber? They have realistic designs on winning the AL Central this season, but Cleveland ownership is always eager to reduce their roster investments regardless of how it harms the on-field product. Bieber has suffered steep velocity loss in recent years and in 2023 struggled by his prior standards. However, he worked on regaining some lost fastball mph this past winter and has shown promise on that front during spring training. Still just 28, Bieeber is going into his walk year in 2024. 

Over in the NL Central, the reigning champion Brewers have been shipping off starting pitchers this winter – Corbin Burnes to the Orioles and Adrian Houser to the Mets. As well, Brandon Woodruff won’t pitch in 2024 as he recovers from shoulder surgery. So perhaps Milwaukee would be willing to trade 27-year-old righty Freddy Peralta? Over the last three seasons, Peralta in 74 starts and a pair of relief appearances has authored an impressive ERA+ of 123 with a K/BB ratio of 3.58. It’s fair to consider him one of the more underrated starting pitchers around, and he’d very much be a boon to the Yankees’ hopes. That said, Peralta’s contract includes a pair of very affordable team options for 2025 and 2026 ($8 million apiece), which means the Brewers may not be willing to part with him. 

So above you have names that don’t really address the void left by Cole plus a couple of names who might not even be attainable. What the Yankees should do is pony up for Montgomery or Snell, but there appears to be a lack of will on that front. Maybe the removal of Cease from the trade market makes Steinbrenner a little more desperate and little less protective of those vast coffers of his.

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