Wednesday, February 1 2023
Justin Verlander

Justin Verlander / USA TODAY Sports/SNY treated image

Gerrit Cole is the Yankees’ ace.

In his three season with New York, Cole has continued to be the team’s best pitcher, but they haven’t had a true No. 2 starter since Masahiro Tanaka.

That needs to change this year. While GM Brian Cashman hopes Frankie Montas would become that, it hasn’t happened, resulting in one of the most disappointing Yankees trades in some time.

And with question marks surrounding Montas in 2023, the Yankees need to find a stabilizing force to take into the playoffs. As great of a year Nestor Cortes had, he may never have a season like this again, and his inexperience and lack of innings length makes him unreliable.

Luis Severino’s injury history also makes him unreliable, so where should the Yankees look? Well, they could take a run at Justin Verlander, a pitcher they’ve faced in this past postseason and someone that could make them better.

But should the Yankees go after the 2022 AL Cy Young Award winner?

Cons

Verlander won his third career Cy Young Award this year and is at the top of his game at the age of 39. But his age is also a reason why the Yankees should be wary about bringing him into the fold.

Verlander will enter his age-40 season. There have been some notable performances from pitchers age 40 and beyond, but they have been few and far between.

Roger Clemens was in his age-41 season when he won the National League Cy Young Award in 2004. Many can argue he had a better statistical season the next year. At 42 years old, he had 7.8 WAR and a 1.87 ERA — the lowest by any 40-year-old pitcher in a qualified season since earned runs became official in both leagues in 1913.

Randy Johnson’s 2004 season, at 40 years old, had 8.4 WAR and 290 strikeouts, second-most by a pitcher in his age-40 season or older.

With all that said, can we really expect another Cy Young-esque performance from Verlander in 2023? Odds are that won’t be the case, but if the drop-off isn’t that bad he is definitely  worth a flier.

But then there’s the contract. According to Astros owner Jim Crane, Verlander is seeking a deal similar to one Max Scherzer received from the Mets last season. Three years for a 40-year-old is way too much. If what Verlander’s camp is looking for is true, then the Yankees should look elsewhere.

Oct 19, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) reacts after striking out Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve (not pictured) to end the sixth inning in game one of the ALCS for the 2022 MLB Playoffs at Minute Maid Park.Oct 19, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) reacts after striking out Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve (not pictured) to end the sixth inning in game one of the ALCS for the 2022 MLB Playoffs at Minute Maid Park.

Oct 19, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) reacts after striking out Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve (not pictured) to end the sixth inning in game one of the ALCS for the 2022 MLB Playoffs at Minute Maid Park. / Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Pros

Where to begin.

If Verlander is as advertised, he’ll easily give the Yankees rotation what the Mets had in 2022 with Scherzer and Jacob deGrom, two bonafide aces that took the pressure off the rest of the rotation…when they were both healthy.

In 2022, Verlander pitched to an 18-4 record with a 1.75 ERA over 175 IP in 28 starts with 185 Ks and a 0.829 WHIP en route to his third Cy Young Award. The Yankees haven’t had a season like that from one of their starters since CC Sabathia in 2011.

That season, Sabathia went 19-8 with a 3.00 ERA in 237.1 IP over 33 starts with a 1.23 WHIP and 230 Ks. Cole’s best season saw him pitch to a 20-5 record with a 2.50 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 326 Ks. That was in 2019, his final season with the Astros.

All that’s to say, Cole could use some help. And Verlander, even with the highly probable drop off in 2023, could give that and more.

He has postseason experience and is a World Series champion. I don’t put too much stock in his World Series numbers, while I won’t ignore them– a 1-6 record and a 5.63 ERA is hard to dismiss — I’d rather have him than not in those big games. And his performance in a pivotal Game 5 against the Phillies — giving up just one run in five innings — proves he can step up at any moment.

Why not have that with the Yankees?

Verdict

Despite Verlander’s age, and the expected drop in production from his Cy Young year, he remains one of the best starters in the game.

Without Verlander, the Yankees will need to lean on Cortes and Severino or pray Montas finds his form in 2023. They could also go after deGrom or Carlos Rodon in free agency, but they’ll garner more years/money.

The Yankees have more holes to fill in their lineup, so if they can get Verlander on a one or two-year deal, and use the money to re-sign Aaron Judge among other positional needs, he’s the pitcher to go for.

Source: Yahoo Sports

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