Projecting the New York Yankees' 5-Man Rotation for 2014
The New York Yankees have spent most of the offseason rebuilding an offensive lineup that failed the team miserably last season.
With a retooled offense and millions of dollars spent to prove it, it's time to focus the attention on a starting rotation that has many unknowns in it.
In 2013, the Yankees' pitching ranked in the middle of the pack overall and finished the season with a 3.94 ERA, which was eighth in the American League, per ESPN.
Gone are Phil Hughes and Andy Pettitte. The Yankees have three spots in the rotation set for next season. Currently, there are at least three or four pitchers on the roster who will fight for the last two spots. The Yankees will also be looking for potential free agents to fill out the rotation.
Whomever the Yankees get to pitch every fourth and fifth day will go a long way in factoring into the Yankees' success next season.
1. CC Sabathia
The thought of the Yankees Opening Day starter next season being CC Sabathia, who is coming off his worst season as a professional, is a scary proposition.
The simple truth is Sabathia isn't going anywhere anytime soon, and the Yankees will bank on his unbelievable durability. Sabathia is a gamer, and no pitcher has thrown more innings than he has since 2007.
The key for Sabathia next season will be to find the velocity that was missing for most of last season.
His 175 strikeouts were his fewest in a season since 2006, per ESPN. He just wasn't missing bats last season, and hitters were making hard contact. The 28 home runs allowed was the highest total in Sabathia's career.
2. Hiroki Kuroda
Returning for a third season and likely to pitch behind Sabathia all season is the 38-year-old Hiroki Kuroda.
Last season, Kuroda was the Yankees' best pitcher with a 3.31 ERA.
Kuroda seemed to tire dramatically at the end of the season, however, going 0-6 with an ERA of 6.56 in his final eight starts. Despite that, the Yankees re-signed Kuroda to a one-year deal worth $16 million.
It's possible the Yankees have already received the best they are going to get out of Kuroda. Any time a player contemplates retirement for as long as he has, it eventually reflects in performance. For now, the Yankees are banking on getting the same reliable veteran who has anchored their staff for the past two seasons.
I have a strange feeling that how Kuroda finished last season could be a precursor to his 2014 output.
3. Masahiro Tanaka
The New York Yankees received an early Christmas gift when Masahiro Tanaka was given consent to be posted to MLB. The Yankees have been in on Tanaka all offseason and view him as a key part to rebuilding the Yankees pitching staff.
The 25-year old right-handed pitcher from Japan is expected to receive a contract worth more than $100 million.
Given his age, he would instantly become the future of the Yankees staff. He is projected to be a starter more along the lines of Hiroki Kuroda than Yu Darvish.
The Yankees will gladly accept a younger version of the pitcher who carried them a year earlier.
The key for the Yankees will be in the negotiations. According to Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York, more than one-third of MLB teams are interested in Tanaka. The Yankees are always the favorite with their deep pockets, but other teams like the Seattle Mariners may be a more appealing lifestyle.
4. Ivan Nova
Ivan Nova earned himself a spot in the starting rotation in 2014 thanks to his fantastic finish to 2013.
Nova went 9-6 on the year with a 3.10 ERA. He led the Yankees in strikeout and ground-ball rate, respectively.
Nova came up huge when the Yankees needed him late in the season. While Sabathia continued his year-long struggles and Kuroda made a turn for the worse, Nova stepped up.
Nova was named the AL Pitcher of the Month in August, when he went 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA. If the Yankees can get that Nova to pitch all season, it would be a huge boost to the back end of the rotation and help separate the Yanks from the middle of the pack.
Nova has yet to show that type of consistency, and injuries have plagued him, but at only 27 years old, he is entering his prime.
5. Michael Pineda
The final spot in the Yankees rotation will be a fight among internal candidates Michael Pineda and David Phelps or a veteran the Yanks have yet to sign.
Phelps is the likely leader, but the Yankees really want Pineda to win the job. Pineda was the prize piece the Yanks traded for two years ago when they shipped Jesus Montero to Seattle.
Pineda has yet to throw one pitch for the Yankees and hasn't pitched in the majors since September 2011. He still owns a lot of upside as he will only be 25 when the season starts. The Yanks would love to see him return to the form he had when he struck out 173 batters in his only full season in 2011.
The Yankees staff is filled with question marks, but they all make up a possibility of stellar performances.
The talent is there; whether it is ever reached will be the difference between the Yanks returning to the playoffs or missing it for the second straight year.