Inbox: 6-man rotation for Yankees in 2016?

Beat reporter Bryan Hoch answers fans' questions

January 25th, 2016

Are the Yankees thinking of starting the season with a six-man rotation? That would put less stress on CC Sabathia and keep Masahiro Tanaka on a schedule he was used to.

-- Gary M., Toledo, Ohio

Short answer: It's possible. This was a concept that pitching coach Larry Rothschild said he was in favor of late last season, and there are benefits to the idea. General manager Brian Cashman said Monday that while it is more likely that the Yankees will begin with a five-man rotation, he wouldn't rule out the idea of rolling with six.

"Right now, it's more likely that we go the conventional route and have five starters, and whoever is the loser out of that battle for five spots would potentially be a long man in the 'pen, waiting in the wings," Cashman said. "But who knows? We'll have to wait and see."

The trick, of course, is that the Yankees need to have six healthy and productive starters once they get through Spring Training. In no particular order, Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi, Luis Severino, Ivan Nova and Bryan Mitchell will be competing for rotation slots, with Luis Cessa -- acquired from the Tigers in the Justin Wilson trade and ranked as the Yanks' No. 16 prospect by -- thought to be next in line.

Whether the Yankees begin the season with five or six starters, realistically speaking, they'll be dipping into depth options soon enough. The Yanks had 10 pitchers make starts for them in 2015 and 13 the year before that, while the 33 pitchers the Yankees used in '15 were second only to the Braves (37).

"I think if you can give guys extra rest, that's always a benefit," Cashman said. "But theory and practicality, that's where the rubber meets the road. We have a long way to get to before that really is a legitimate option or not."

As an aside, the 13 starters used in 2014 wasn't even close to the franchise record. The 1946 Yankees used 18 starting pitchers, going alphabetically from Bill Bevens to Bill Wight, while the 1915 and '89 Yanks each used 16 starters.

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Have the Yankees considered signing Tim Lincecum for their bullpen or as rotation depth?

-- Simon L., New York

Lincecum is coming back from hip surgery and is reportedly planning to hold a showcase workout in February. The Yankees are the only team not to have signed a Major League free agent this offseason, and the club says it has shifted into non-roster invitee mode, but given the Yanks' oft-stated desire for pitching depth, it would be a surprise if they didn't have a scout or two in attendance to look at Lincecum.

They'd have company: Lincecum's agent, Rick Thurman, told the San Francisco Chronicle that nearly every Major League team has reached out with interest. The Yankees have enjoyed success in recent years with reclamation projects like Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia, so making a serious push for a two-time National League Cy Young Award winner like Lincecum -- albeit one who is 39-42 with a 4.68 ERA over the past four seasons -- fits in their playbook.

Hot Stove Tracker

How come the Yankees did not explore the possibility of trading a veteran such as Mark Teixeira or Carlos Beltran? I feel as if this would have brought back an OK return and cleared the path for Greg Bird, Aaron Judge or even both.

-- Kris A., New Windsor, N.Y.

Teixeira and Beltran both have full no-trade clauses, though I suppose under the right circumstance the Yankees could have asked them if they would approve a deal. Teixeira already said publicly this offseason that he would not, doubling down on an earlier statement that he planned to be "buried in pinstripes." Beltran might have been more receptive, but it's no secret that he projects better as a designated hitter at this point, which limits his market.

That said, the Yankees wouldn't seek just an "OK return" for either player -- particularly Teixeira, who was among the American League's best players last season. As promising as Bird was over his first 46 big league games, the Yanks still believe they are a better team with Teixeira in the lineup. Bird and Judge -- the club's No. 1 prospect -- are viewed as big pieces of the team's future, but for the purposes of 2016, having both begin the season in the Minors makes the organization that much deeper.

Is there a trade market for Brett Gardner? I'm surprised the Yankees didn't deal him to the Cubs for Starlin Castro rather than Adam Warren.

-- Chris W., Essex Junction, Vt.

There is certainly a market for Gardner, an above-average player and team leader who seems relatively affordable in today's market ($39 million over the next three years). At the Winter Meetings, the Yankees were getting plenty of hits on Gardner and Andrew Miller, and the Cubs were among the clubs with legitimate interest in Gardner.

The Yanks said all along that they weren't looking to give Gardner away; rather, they were only seeing if they could flip him for a front-line starting pitcher. That obviously didn't happen, and Cashman said last week that they have "exhausted all opportunities" on the trade front, not expecting to make a significant roster change between now and the beginning of Spring Training.

The landscape could still change between now and Opening Day, but the Yankees continue to see great value in having Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury atop the lineup. My bet would be that, come April 4, Gardner is standing in left field at Yankee Stadium.

Now that Joe Girardi has made the announcement about Aroldis Chapman being the closer, how do you think Miller will react? Do you think he will be somewhat bitter that he didn't have a shot to prove himself in Spring Training?

-- Rick A., Bay Shore, N.Y.

Quite the contrary: I think Miller will handle it just fine. Speaking to him and Dellin Betances often last season, you were left with the impression that they legitimately were both putting the team first and weren't worried about the title of closer.

In Miller's case, he's being paid quite well ($27 million remaining over the next three years) and has said often how much he appreciates his situation with the Yankees. He even passed up a larger offer in part because he can be near his Tampa, Fla., home during the spring.

Betances, Miller and Chapman should help the Yanks seal plenty of wins, and with Major League Baseball still considering some form of discipline for Chapman, it wouldn't be a shock if Betances and Miller have to pick up some saves along the way.