By Brendan Kuty
The Chicago Cubs swooped in and nabbed free agent starting pitcher Yu Darvish on Saturday. Here are some top options for Brian Cashman and the New York Yankees.
Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Rays
Why: According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees have checked in on Odorozzi, a 27-year-old who went 10-8 with a 3.83 ERA in 28 starts for the Rays last year. He’s set to become a free agent in 2020. So, he’s got two qualities for which the Yankees have hunted in a starting pitcher. He’s young-ish and controllable. The Yankees like that he gets strikeouts (8.2 K/9 career). He won’t break the bank, either. Last season, he made $4.1 million in his first year of arbitration and is taking the Rays to court since the sides haven’t come to an agreement yet.
Why not: The career 3.0 BB/9 doesn’t help (it was 3.8 in 2017), nor does the fact he doesn’t get many groundballs (just 33.9 percent since he became a full-timer in 2014). Other than that, Ordorizzi would seem a nice mid-rotation addition for the Yankees, who have a full starting stuff with plenty of health questions. Would the Rays really trade him to the Yankees though? Same worry for the next guy on our list.
Chris Archer, RHP, Rays
Why: Owed just $34 million over the next four years, even the Yankees — somewhat strapped by owner Hal Steinbrenner’s goal to stay under the payroll luxury tax cap — could probably find it not too hard to make Archer’s salary work. The 29-year-old was one of the best pitchers in the game from 2013-2015 (3.26 ERA in 89 starts). He’s got a bulldog reputation.
Why not: For starters, it could be hard to convince the Rays to trade Archer to the Yankees, an in-division rival. And there’s plenty of interest in the right-hander, which will likely up Tampa’s asking price. How much young talent would the Yankees be willing to give up to get Archer? Throwing some more smoke into things: Archer’s talent hasn’t translated into results the last two years. Over that span, he’s put up a combined 4.05 ERA in 67 starts.
Danny Duffy, RHP, Royals
Why: Duffy, 28, could be entering the prime of his career. He’s slipped a little bit since going 9-12 with a 2.53 ERA in 31 games (25 starts) in 2014, posting a 3.77 ERA in 96 games since then. But he’s also seen a rise in his strikeout totals (8.2 K/9) as his walks have dropped (2.6 BB). The approximately $15 million a year Duffy is due over each of the next four seasons is a bit pricey but not crazy for a team like the Yankees.
Why not: Duffy recently tweeted “Bury me a Royal.” He doesn’t want to play elsewhere. But it’s not his call. Also, Duffy’s market figures to be plentiful. Meaning the Yankees might have to blow Kansas City away with plenty of other, potentially more cost-effective options out there. Duffy has never pitched more in a season than the 179 2/3 innings he threw in 2016.
Patrick Corbin, LHP, Diamondbacks
Why: The 28-year-old gets lots of groundballs. And he’s a lefty, which the Yankees would like considering how lefty hitters target the right-field short porch. Corbin also figures to cost less in terms of prospects than some of the other guys on this list. The Yankees have also talked to the Diamondbacks about third baseman Brandon Drury and their own center fielder, Jacoby Ellsbury.
Why not: Corbin’s ceiling is probably back-end and if the Yankees want to bolster their rotation and are cool with dealing Frazier, they can probably do better. Corbin gives up a fair number of homers, too, and doesn’t throw hard at all. The Yankees like power arms, look at the whole staff. Corbin would be a pure rental, since he’s a free agent after this season.
Michael Fulmer, RHP, Tigers
Why: Fulmer, 24, is everything the Yankees (and, really, all teams) look for in a starting pitcher these days: He’s young, talented and he’s got a ton of team control. Fulmer won’t be a free agent for five seasons. He gets groundballs, throws hard and he’s generally known as as hard worker and good clubhouse guy. Fulmer fits all the boxes, except that he doesn’t really strike out many hitters, which is surprising considering his velocity and slider.
Why not: Fulmer, who beat Gary Sanchez for the 2016 AL Rookie of the Year, would cost the Yankees a lot in terms of prospects. Any conversation would have to start with Clint Frazier — the Yankees aren’t trading Gleyber Torres — and then probably at least a strong secondary piece. Doesn’t help, either, that Fulmer has had two elbow surgeries — neither of them being Tommy John, though.
Jeff Samardzija, RHP, Giants
Why: The Yankees have long liked and been linked to Samardzija, whom special assistant to the general manager Jim Hendry drafted when he was the Cubs’ GM. Samardzija is a horse. He’s thrown at least 203 innings in each of the last three seasons. With injury risks in their rotation, the Yankees would like somebody they could pencil in for 200 innings.
Why not: He’s quite expensive, due $19.8 million a year over the next three years. That’s basically what Jacoby Ellsbury is getting. And Samardzija is a bit of a mystery in the same mold as Michael Pineda — a guy who gets plenty of strikeouts and walks almost no one but the results don’t show up over the course of a season. Last year, Samardzija was 9-15 with a 4.42 ERA.