The New York Yankees have undergone one of the club’s biggest changes in years. After the season, they let three pitchers walk into free agency and hardly tried to hold them. Mashiro Tanaka provided mostly good pitching for the Yankees for seven years, but they let him run with diminishing statistics. He is now back with his Eagles of Japan, where he is a national hero. James Paxton is now with the Seattle Mariners, his old team, and JA Happ is with the Minnesota Twins.
Meanwhile, the New York Yankees waited, in a painful wait, to see if they could put down battle champion DJ LeMahieu. Once they found out, they were able to re-sign it with a creative deal that would cost them less than was thought annually; they immediately got to work on deals they had researched. On the same day they hit a deal with Lemahieu, they hired two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey KluberWithin days, they added another arm that traded with the Pittsburg Pirates for starter Jameson Taillon.
The Yankees took a certain risk of getting one of these pitchers because of neither pitcher in the 2020 season. Kluber was hit by a ball in 2019, after which he was traded to the Texas Rangers. That didn’t go well because he sustained a shoulder injury and only threw in one game. With the short season in 2020, he was never allowed to throw again. Taillon, on the other hand, is from his second Tommy John operation. Both pitchers are now healthy and ready to leave at the start of the season.
The New York Yankees already employ one of the best starters in the game, Gerrit Cole. They also have Jordan Montgomery, who is now two years away from his Tommy John surgery. Add to that; they have the returning Domingo-German who also didn’t pitch last year but was 18-4 in 2019. Add to that; the Yankees have a lot of depth to rely on. Smart young stars like Deivi Gracia and Charke Schmidt are in the wings when one of these players gets injured.
Luis Severino returns halfway through the season. Severino was 14-6 in 2017 and 19-8 in 2018. Severino underwent Tommy John surgery in 2019 and did not pitch in 2020. If any of these pitchers get back into shape, the Yankees will have the greatest starting rotation in the American League East, if not all baseball. If they don’t, they still have plenty of options to watch.
Looking at the other American League teams, it’s hard to believe any of them are on the Yankees. The Houston Astros, who probably have the next best rotation, are missing their best pitching services in Justin Verlander. He won’t play a role in 2020. Last year’s division leader Tampa Bay Rays didn’t do himself a favor by running Charlie Morton to the National League Atlanta Braves. Then, in one of the most mysterious moves of the off-season, they traded their bait Blake Snell away for the San Diego Padres. The Rays still have Tyler Glasnow, but with Blake and Morton gone, the Rays don’t have the pitching to cause another upset from the Yankees.
The Red Sox are a joke, so there’s no point in talking about it. Add the Baltimore Orioles, and you have the two teams that don’t make it to the postseason. The main contender for the New York Yankees in the east is the Toronto Blue Jays. They have a boned bait in Hyun-Jin Ryu, but outside of it he falls off sharply. They have a great young line-up, but their pitching will let them down.
Outside of the division, the next best rotation is the Chicago White Sox. They have Lucas Giolito and got co-ace Lance Lynn. Dallas Keuchel has quite washed up, Carlos Rodn and Michael Kopech, and you don’t want to rely on any of them to start games. However, the White Sox will most likely run the AL Central. The Cleveland Indians have one of the best pitchers in baseball, leading Shane Bieber, but they traded away Carlos Carrasco in their Lindor trade with the New York Mets. I’m not sure if they will compete this season.
The Oakland Athletics will be an interesting team to follow this season. The rotation of the A is actually very stable. It has Luzardo’s sky-high top, a very high floor man in Chris Bassit (2.29 ERA in 63 frames in the 2020 season), and Monts bounceback potential. After that, Manaea and Fiers provide league-average innings in the back. The key to the A’s will be that if AJ Puk comes back healthy, he can make a difference. The Minnesota twin has a good one-two with stable anchors. Two questions for the Twins are: what will JA Happ do and whether their setup can carry them?
It will be a challenge for all teams to move from a season of 60 games to a season of 162 games. It will certainly be interesting to watch. Play ball!
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