The Yankees were in the mix for Dallas Keuchel before the former Cy Young winner signed with the Braves, but New York held firm to its price rather than boosting the offer to land the left-hander.
Given New York’s interest in Keuchel, it’s fair to ask: What will the next step be for the Yankees in their apparent quest to bolster the rotation?
“I think they’re fine as is,” one American League executive said.
The Yankees’ starters have a collective 3.83 ERA, good for fourth in the AL. Four of their five starters have a sub-4.00 ERA, while the fifth, J.A. Happ, has won five consecutive decisions and has a 2.50 ERA over his past three starts.
So why were the Yankees even pursuing Keuchel?
For starters, as good as Domingo German has been -- he’s 9-2 with a 3.86 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) -- he will face some type of innings limit later in the season. The 26-year-old has never thrown 125 innings in a season at any level, so it’s difficult to imagine that the Yankees will let him throw much more than 160 innings.
Sabathia and Paxton have performed well when they have pitched, but both hurlers have already spent time on the injured list this season. Sabathia’s right knee continues to be something to watch, while Paxton’s lengthy injury history can’t be ignored.
Masahiro Tanaka and Happ have made 13 starts apiece, and although they’re averaging fewer than six innings per outing, the Yankees’ strong bullpen has picked up the slack.
The wild card in the rotation, of course, is Luis Severino, who has missed the entire season with a right shoulder injury and isn’t expected back until sometime in July. Severino is the ace the Yankees need atop the rotation, but it’s unclear exactly when he’ll return and what he’ll look like when he does.
“He’s the key to their whole season,” a second executive said of Severino. “If he’s the same guy he’s been, they don’t need to make a move. If not, they need to get a starter. The real question is whether they’ll even know that before the end of July.”
Adding a veteran arm such as Keuchel would have been good insurance for Severino, not to mention the other aforementioned issues. To add an arm now, GM Brian Cashman will have to turn to the trade market.
Madison Bumgarner will be among the most prized trade targets in the league in the next month or two, but a source said the Yankees might not be enamored enough with Bumgarner to pay the necessary price. Other potential targets include Marcus Stroman and Mike Minor, or the Yankees could choose to go with their current crop of starters and hope Severino returns to form once he gets back on the mound.
Two-plus months into the season, there may be no more intriguing race to watch than the AL Cy Young, which has no less than five legitimate candidates:
• Justin Verlander (9-2, 2.40 ERA) has a minuscule 0.737 WHIP and 110 strikeouts, tied for second in the league. His 4.8 hits per nine innings leads the league.
• Jake Odorizzi (8-2, 1.96 ERA) leads the league in ERA and ERA+, while his 5.7 hits per nine innings trails only Verlander and his 0.964 WHIP ranks fifth in MLB.
• Charlie Morton (7-0, 2.30 ERA) has been everything the Rays have hoped he would be, pacing a rotation that leads the AL with a 2.73 ERA.
• Lucas Giolito (8-1, 2.54 ERA) is second in the league with a 0.964 WHIP, one of only four AL starters with a sub-1.000 mark. He’s also the only pitcher in the AL with two complete games.
• Mike Minor (5-4, 2.55 ERA) ranks first among all Major League pitchers with a 4.1 bWAR, the highest mark for any player in baseball not named Cody Bellinger (5.5) or Mike Trout (4.2)
Series to watch: Athletics at Rays (June 10-12)
Oakland faces a large deficit in the American League West, but the Athletics are very much in the AL Wild Card mix, a race currently headed by the Rays. Tampa Bay has its eye set on the Yankees and first place in the AL East, and although the Athletics have hit a rough patch following the 10-game winning streak that got them back in the postseason picture, this figures to be a good challenge for both teams.
Stealth star of the week
The Yankees may have suffered their first series loss in more than a month, but it was difficult to put any of the blame on DJ LeMahieu. An under-the-radar free-agent signing this past winter, the infielder has excelled in a jack-of-all-trades role for the Yankees, playing first, second and third base during the opening months of the season. Last week, LeMahieu hit .393/.414/.750, belting two home runs with four doubles and 10 RBIs in six games. For the season, LeMahieu has a league-high .491 average with runners in scoring position.