The Yankees got their big fish in Juan Soto this winter, beefing up a lineup that needed to bring on support for Aaron Judge; the slugger singlehandedly shouldering the offense over the previous two seasons.
Now, they must spend the last six weeks before pitchers and catchers report to address their starting rotation behind reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Gerrit Cole.
At least one more reliable arm is needed to stabilize some uncertainty that hovers over the Yankees’ stable of starting pitchers. It is safe to assume that Carlos Rodon will not be nearly as large a liability as he was in the first year of his six-year, $162 million contract. There will also be a hope that Nestor Cortes can redirect the pendulum upward after a considerable regression in 2023.
One more legitimate option could provide the Yankees with the flexibility to ride with either Clarke Schmidt or Clayton Beeter at the bottom of the rotation.
The free-agent market is top-heavy at this advanced stage of the offseason. Blake Snell, the defending NL Cy Young Award winner, tops that list, though teams will be wary of doling out a huge contract for the 31-year-old southpaw who struggled with walks and has only pitched more than 180 innings in a season just twice.
Former Yankee Jordan Montgomery has leveraged a World Series-winning campaign with the Texas Rangers to join Snell atop the remaining free-agent market. After struggling to find it in the Bronx from 2017-2022, the 31-year-old lefty went 10-11 with a 3.20 ERA with the St. Louis Cardinals and Rangers (4-2, 2.79 ERA in 11 starts with Texas).
The remainder of the free-agent market is bare, though, meaning the Yankees would likely pivot to the trade market if they were to find a legitimate top-three option.
Japanese lefty Shota Imanaga is still available after he was posted on Nov. 27 and time is running short. The 30-year-old has until Jan. 11 to sign with an MLB club or else he’ll return to Japan for the 2024 season. Over the last three years, he has posted a 2.51 ERA in 467 innings pitched with 479 strikeouts.
Domestic options available for trade could include Dylan Cease of the Chicago White Sox and Shane Bieber of the Cleveland Guardians.
Cease, 28, is under team control via arbitration through the 2025 season and the White Sox are open for business.
What version a potential suitor would get, though, remains to be seen. He finished second in the AL Cy Young Award voting in 2022 after going 14-8 with a 2.20 ERA and 227 strikeouts (with a league-leading 78 walks) in 184 innings pitched. In 2023, his WHIP swelled to 1.418 as he went 7-9 with a 4.48 ERA, 214 strikeouts, and 79 walks.
The 2024 season will be Bieber’s walk year and there surely are several teams monitoring his availability. Just two seasons ago, he posted a 2.88 ERA and a 1.040 WHIP with 198 strikeouts in 200 innings. In 2020, he won the American League Cy Young Award by going 8-1 with a 1.63 ERA and 122 strikeouts in just 77.1 innings.
The problem is that injuries have sandwiched those seasons. In 2021, he was limited to just 96.2 innings because of a subscapularis strain. Last year, elbow inflammation ensured he made just 21 starts.