Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Two rotation flyers Yankees might consider

The New York Yankees have made six trades this offseason and signed four free agents. It’s been a pretty busy winter thus far. But, when looking over the roster, it does appear that the Yanks are begging for a lot to go right in terms of their rotation.

Each of the five starters currently penciled in have question marks of some sort and while there is player ready to return in May and depth in the minors, it seems the Yankees might be interested in taking a flyer on a veteran starter before spring training begins in Tampa next month.

Let me preface the remainder of this article by saying that I’m not suggesting these players will be saviors for the Yankees, nor that they have to go out and sign them. I’m merely noting their availability as a means to supply depth to an area in which the Yankees can’t have enough.

I’ve restricted the list to two players who I believe might be amenable to minor league deals with a spring training invite and are ready to pitch now. Thus, I excluded Brandon Beachy, even though he might be ready come May, which happens to be the same time that Ivan Nova could be back on the roster. Beachy would actually be tops on my list if the Yankees want to simply have someone available for midseason, therefore giving the current roster a chance to fill any vacancy that arises.

That said I selected Chad Billingsley and Eric Stults to review among a slew of underwhelming candidates. Neither of the pitchers is anything more than a fifth starter, but they could provide much needed innings in the event CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka or Michael Pineda is not healthy this spring. Further, there are performance questions surrounding Chris Capuano and Nathan Eovaldi. Adam Warren and Chase Whitley will likely be stretched out during the spring, but Warren could yield a relief role and Whitley was up and down in 2014.

Now, I’m on the record as saying that the Yankees should give as much time as possible to the players in their minor league system when needs arise. Bryan Mitchell and Jose De Paula are possible players that could play a role on the major league squad in 2015, but neither of them provides a guarantee of success. My point here is that since the Yankees will likely look to take a flyer on a veteran arm, why not these check on these guys? What does it hurt?

Chad Billingsley

Billingsley has not pitched since 2013, and then he appeared in just two games. He underwent Tommy John surgery that season, and then another surgery in 2014 on the same right arm to repair a torn flexor tendon. He’s just 30 years old and was once a legitimate mid-rotation arm for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Billingsley could be a non-roster invitee who could pay dividends if fully healed and of course effective. The Dodgers bought out his 2015 option for $3 million.

Billingsley, a first-round pick in 2003, owns a career mark of 81-61 in just below 1,200 innings. He’s compiled a 3.65 ERA (3.67 FIP) with a 7.9 K/9 ratio. Billingsley has generated a 46.3 percent groundball rate and suffered from control issues (career 3.8 BB/9 rate). But, he made 20 or more starts from 2007 through 2012, including 31 or more four times during the span.

For what it’s worth, Steamer projects Billingsley to toss 125 innings and record a 4.23 FIP and 0.8 fWAR.

Eric Stults

Stults, 35, was granted free agency by the San Diego Padres in November. The southpaw had a rough 2014 season, (8-17, 4.30 ERA, 4.63 FIP in 176 innings), but has thrown 379.2 innings over the last two seasons (63 starts). Let’s be honest, when looking at this echelon of pitcher, innings is what a team is looking for.

Stults was much more effective in 2013, going 11-13 with a 3.93 ERA (3.53 FIP), generating a 2.6 fWAR. Stults owns a 5.7 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 for his career spanning over 600 innings. He made $2.75 million last season.

In my view, if the Yankees indeed feel the need to take a flyer on a pitcher, of these two, I’d go for Billingsley. Yes, he is most likely of the duo to get injured himself, but he has the most upside between them for sure. Stults could be an option, but I’m fairly certain Warren, Whitley or the minor leaguers could provide more than him.

There are others on the scrap heap, but these two seemed to provide the Yankees with either upside (Billingsley) or simply a veteran arm to supply innings (Stults) at a reasonable cost should the minor leaguers be deemed not ready. Again, the Yankees have better options, but having more options is never bad.

I understand these are bottom of the barrel selections, but if the Yankees want one, who should it be? Or is there another player I missed that fits the bill? Let me know in the comments below.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer and sports media strategist. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.