By most, if not all, accounts, Brian Cashman and the New York Yankees had a successful trade deadline. They were able to bring in a replacement for the struggling Joey Gallo, who they sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and they also addressed the primary area of need: pitching. Scott Effross and Lou Trivino are both solid additions to the bullpen, but the day would have felt like a failure if it weren’t for the acquisition of Frankie Montas. Despite executing one of the more confusing trades of the day, sending Jordan Montgomery to the St. Louis Cardinals for defensive center fielder Harrison Bader, the Yankees got their guy. Now that the Yankees have Montas in the lineup and Montgomery out, what does their post-deadline rotation look like?
We can start at the top of the rotation with Gerrit Cole. Possessing one of the most impressive fastballs in all of MLB, the Yankees ace has the stuff to win them games. He’s a high velocity, high strikeout pitcher who, despite having some blips on the radar, has had strong overall numbers in 2022. He’s posted a 3.56 ERA (107 ERA +) with a 2.72 xFIP (second best in MLB) and 2.6 fWAR prior to his start on Wednesday, the 16th highest mark in MLB and the highest on the Yankees. The image below speaks for itself:
The problems he has had stem from his terrible home run numbers. His HR / 9 di lui is the second highest on the Yankees among qualified starters, and as we saw against the Seattle Mariners, it has cost the Yankees games. No matter what, he will be the Game 1 starter in the postseason.
The new acquisition, Montas, will fill the next spot in the rotation. For those still unfamiliar, the 29-year-old high-velocity right-hander has an arsenal of five pitches – a four-seam fastball, split-finger, sinker, slider, and cutter. In terms of pitch usage, he has gradually changed. 2022 is the first season he has thrown his fastball more than any other pitch. He has also steadily thrown his split-finger more while dipping in slider usage between 2020 (25.1 percent) and 2021 (13 percent), though it increased slightly to 15.1 percent in 2022. His cutter usage is up too.
As far as the numbers go, Montas sits with a 3.18 ERA (118 ERA +) and a 3.35 FIP with an fWAR of 2.0, which would be third-highest among all Yankees pitchers. Replacing Severino with a player that gets players to chase and almost matches him in terms of the profile is perfect for the Yankees rotation, especially when Severino returns from his injury. There’s much less pressure on him to be a full-time starter.
The third pitcher in the rotation is not someone that is considered “high-velocity” by any means, Nestor Cortes Jr. The mustachioed menace on the mound has had a career season showcasing that you don’t always need the best velocity to dominate hitters . With his highest average velocity being 91.6 MPH on his fastball and lowest being 77.5 MPH on his slider, he brings plenty of diversity to the Yankees’ rotation.
An exciting piece to this puzzle is how Boone will manage the two and three starters when the postseason comes along. The matchup would undoubtedly play a factor in the decision, but could we see Cortes start the second game as an attempt to throw off the opposing lineup’s timing with a deceptive pitcher more focused on location instead of pure velocity? The good news is, whether he’s starting in Game 2 or 3, he will bring his unique pitching style with him, and it provides the Yankees with plenty of options.
The fourth pitcher in the rotation is Jameson Taillon, a pitcher with good movement and spin numbers on his pitches, but also one that has struggled during stretches throughout 2022. He possesses a six-pitch mix with a four-seam fastball, slider, curveball , cutter, sinker, and changeup.
One of the biggest keys for Taillon is finding his fastball and limiting barrels. While the movement has been good and the spin rate is still there, compared to 2021, hitters are batting much better against it. There’s been a .055 point increase in batting average, a drop in strikeout rate, and whiff percentage. His barrels and barrels / PA di lui are the second worst of his career di lui. When he has his arsenal working to the best of its ability, Taillon can be a lethal pitcher, and we’ve seen it before. For now, it’s just a matter of addressing these pertinent issues before playoff time.
The last spot in the rotation is a bit of a toss-up, but considering the comments made by Yankees brass, it sounds like Domingo Germán fills that role. Before the trade deadline, this would have been Montgomery’s slot. There’s not much more to say about the 30-year-old right-hander that hasn’t been said before. He’s not great and not the caliber of pitcher you want as a starter in the postseason.
Germán’s 7.30 FIP in 2022 is pretty accurate, given how he’s pitched. The fastball is too easy to pick up out of his hand di lui, and the secondary and tertiary stuff isn’t bad but not good enough to be used to eat innings in the postseason. Just a 15.4 whiff percentage on his fastball is embarrassingly low, especially when the exit velocity and launch angle numbers are career worsts. There’s plenty of room for improvement, but a player like Clarke Schmidt would be more useful in the long run.
The Montgomery trade was confusing, but the Yankees did shore up that second spot in their rotation with Montas, and that was the goal. There would undoubtedly be universal confidence around the fanbase if Germán weren’t the fifth starter in the rotation, but no matter what, this rotation could still be deadly come the postseason. What they have, for the most part, is good, but it is also very rough around the edges.