Tanaka Injury Highlights Yankees’ Need for Starting Pitching

Doing his best Chien-Ming Wang impression, Masahiro Tanaka injured himself running the bases in an inter-league game Friday night. Being sent home on a medium-depth fly ball to right field, Tanaka pulled up lame halfway to home. Well on his way to his best outing of the season, an Aaron Judge fly ball in the sixth proved to be Tanaka’s only weakness of the night.

Saturday afternoon, the New York Yankees placed Tanaka on the 10-day disabled list, and have recalled infielder Ronald Torreyes in a corresponding move.

Even before Tanaka’s injury, it was obvious that the current group of starters would not cut it for first-year manager Aaron Boone. Luis Severino is the unquestioned ace, followed by the inconsistent (as of late) Tanaka, an aging CC Sabathia, another inconsistent performer in Sonny Gray, and the unproven Domingo German. Now, the need for another proven starting pitcher is magnified.

The stellar Yankees’s farm system has plenty of options to assist the issue, with German already taking the place of Jordan Montgomery (Tommy John surgery). Justus Sheffield, the team’s top pitching prospect, has dominated the minor leagues, combining for a 2-4 record, 2.60 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 55.1 innings across Double-A and Triple-A. Sheffield has struggled with his command in that time, issuing 29 walks.

While the farm system can help, the trade market appears to be the best option for General Manager Brian Cashman. The most unlikely trade partner, the Toronto Blue Jays, are likely to sell high on lefty J.A. Happ, although an inter-division trade is highly unlikely.

Masahiro Tanaka has been placed on the disabled list, further magnifying the @Yankees' need for reliable starting pitching at the trade deadline.Click To Tweet

Cole Hamels, in his final contract year, albeit with a club option for 2019, will likely be available this summer, with the Texas Rangers struggling to a 27-39 record (as of June 8). Hamels has been somewhat effective for the Rangers, pitching to a 3-6 record and 3.86 ERA. As a rental piece, Hamels should not command a huge return, but will likely cost the Yankees at least two of their top ten prospects.

Should the San Francisco Giants’ offseason rebuild be unsuccessful, Madison Bumgarner, who is also in the final season of his contract, may become the most sought after starting pitcher on the market this summer. Bumgarner’s season debut was delayed until this week thanks to a broken left hand, but his return was inspiring, allowing two runs over six innings. Bumgarner also missed time with injury last season, so there are durability concerns, although last year’s injury was self-induced (ATV crash). Bumgarner will likely cost more than Hamels, with three top ten prospects not entirely out of the question.

Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom have been rumored to be available should the New York Mets continue to scuffle. Again, like Happ, Syndergaard and DeGrom are unlikely to make their way crosstown, as trades between the two New York teams have been rare. Either pitcher would require an almost purge of the strong Yankees farm system, making a trade even less likely.

Cole Hamels seems to be the favorite target for Yankees fans, and at this moment, the most plausible as well. Before long, a rotation of Severino-Tanaka-Hamels-Gray-Sabathia could catapult the Yankees to a World Series victory.

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