Thursday, January 28, 2016

Yankees ignore Fister, agree with Nova

The New York Yankees rotation is not set in stone, but it’s fairly simple to lay it out with the caveat that health could derail the group. In alphabetical order here is the assumed five-man rotation for the Yankees with three weeks left until spring training begins.

1. Nathan Eovaldi
2. Michael Pineda
3. CC Sabathia
4. Luis Severino
5. Masahiro Tanaka

There is plenty of talent there to help the club reach the postseason in 2016, but it’s not sound judgment to believe it will take just these five starters. Each of the pitchers above, except for Severino, missed time on the disabled list in 2015. And this will be Severino's first full season in the big leagues, so expecting completely smooth sailing for him is also questionable.

During the offseason it is imperative teams do their best to build depth beyond their perceived starting five. The Yankees felt there was an issue, otherwise they would not have traded lefty reliever Justin Wilson for two Triple-A rotation arms. Plus, the club would not have continuously turned up in trade rumors looking for starting pitchers if they felt the grouping was solid.

The Yankees could have taken the route of signing a veteran bounce-back candidate like Doug Fister who inked a one-year deal with the Houston Astros Thursday for $7 million (it can rise to $12 million based on performance). Mat Latos, Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum are similar pitchers looking to latch on with a team in an effort to rebuild their value.

The Yankees decided against even getting involved for Fister, so they might not be persuaded to look at the other veterans mentioned. That’s due in part to having what they consider an insurance policy already on their roster in Ivan Nova.

Nova agreed to a one-year, $4.1 million deal this afternoon, avoiding arbitration according to the YES Network’s Jack Curry. Curry tweeted that Nova’s deal includes performance incentives as well. It would stand to reason that those bonuses could be based on the number of starts Nova ends up making for the club in 2016.

Curry stated that Nova has battled consistency issues in another tweet, but the cost for Nova to be a swingman could be a certain value for the Yankees. He’s correct in the value aspect, but I questioned (and Curry agreed) whether someone like Nova who has continuously suffered from inconsistency in his career might have an even more difficult time fluctuating back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen.

Nova has 17 2/3 innings of relief under his belt and 614 innings as a starter in parts of six seasons in the big leagues. Yanking Nova between the rotation and the bullpen or merely waiting in the bullpen to mop up games could wreck havoc with his mind.

In my view, Yankees should have tried to sign Fister for what amounts to such a small commitment. I don’t believe there is such a thing as having too much depth especially when the initial five is so fragile. I can see plenty of scenarios in which Fister and Nova could have been taking turns in the rotation at the same time. But, now a bulk of the pressure will sit on Nova’s back, and we’ll see if the Yankees made the right call.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for His baseball commentary has also been published on The Cauldron via Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports 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.