Sometimes, being aggressive in the winter is better than hoping to perform alterations in the summer.
The Yankees will be making phone calls around the league over the next several days, searching to upgrade the club's starting rotation. It is arguable the Yankees made a mistake by not being more vigorous pursuers in the starting pitching market during the winter.
Yes, hindsight is 20/20, but there was a clear understanding in the winter that the rental market this summer was not ramping up to be a grand one with few quality pitchers heading toward free agency after the 2018 season. Also, the desire for clubs to maintain a handle on their own controllable upside pitching, made it clear that when a solid starter was made available the time to pounce should not be ignored.
The Yankees were reportedly involved in trade talks for pitchers like Gerrit Cole, Patrick Corbin and Michael Fulmer, so suggesting they ignored the players is admittedly unfair. However, the push the Yanks made for any of the trio or others seemingly came up well short.
With a farm system as deep as the Yankees possess, it stands to reason that adding the extra player to beat out an opposing club or to persuade a team to move forward with a trade was within their control.
The Yankees failed to make that push with the rotation, instead trading for Giancarlo Stanton and choosing to stick with a five-man group consisting of just one pitcher that felt like a sure thing in Luis Severino. It was not difficult to see that the remaining four pitchers would have at least one factor working against them as the season progressed.
Of the remaining hurlers, only CC Sabathia's return has panned out as hoped. Masahiro Tanaka has been mostly ineffective and has spent time on the disabled list, Sonny Gray has been a disaster since the end of the 2017 season, and finally, Jordan Montgomery was lost to Tommy John surgery.
I argued before the season commenced that the Yankees would be wise to add a starter even with the starting five intact, perhaps shifting Montgomery to Triple-A until needed. I believed there were injury concerns with certain pitchers (even Severino based on workload), the potential performance issues might go unfixed and the ill-experienced depth behind Montgomery made adding another starter a necessity.
The Yankees disagreed and now they are paying for it. Cole has been a difference maker in Houston, Corbin has helped to keep the Diamondbacks in the race, and Fulmer, while not having a great season, is now injured. As such, the Yankees were involved in the recent Manny Machado sweepstakes because of the lackluster pitchers available to them. Similarly, the Yankees are reportedly interested in relievers for an already-stacked bullpen.
It is true the Yankees might still pry a pitcher like Chris Archer from the Rays, though that appears to be more of a pipe dream than anything else. Maybe J.A. Happ, Tyson Ross or Cole Hamels among others, will thrive in a postseason run despite varying concerns.
The truth is, aside from the long shot that Archer is made available to the Yankees, any upgrade a new pitcher might make to the rotation at this point hardly points to a major impact like Justin Verlander made with the Astros last season.
Consequently, the Yankees might be ruing the choice not to make stronger offers to better pitchers in the offseason, and that decision could likely be the difference between a playoff team and a World Series champion.