As we flip the calendar to February, the realization that Opening Day is next month and Spring Training is just two weeks away is sure to bring us warmth in these trying days of winter. And despite Bryce Harper and Manny Machado still being unsigned as I type this, there is plenty to talk about regarding the Yankees and Red Sox, especially when it comes to pitching. In October, the Red Sox won the World Series in large part to a resurgent David Price and an unlikely hero in Nathan Eovaldi. And who in New York could forget about Joe Kelly in the bullpen? Fast forward three months and Eovaldi is re-signed and Kelly is now a Los Angeles Dodger. As the reigning champions, there is reason to believe the Red Sox will be just fine, but have they done enough in the pitching department to hold off the Yankees? In my opinion, the addition of James Paxton, who has ace-like stuff, and retention of J.A. Happ have flown under the radar this offseason as great aquisitions. They got Happ, 36, for the same average annual value as Eovaldi, 28, but without the track record of injuries that the Red Sox pitcher carries. Despite the age difference, I believe Happ will find success this season as the number four man in the rotation. The Yankees also brought back C.C. Sabathia and finally got Sonny Gray off the books. At 38, and with recent health issues, I do believe there will be an opportunity for someone to perhaps steal that final rotation spot from the veteran. Candidates to un-seed Sabathia include Domingo German and Jonathan Loaisiga, and even 23-year-old Michael King. King jumped from Class-A Tampa to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season, posting a 4-0 record with a 1.15 ERA in 39 innings with SWB. But the Yankees might not be done with free agent pitchers just yet.
According to Jon Heyman, the organization is considering adding a starter for depth as we approach Spring Training. With Wade Miley signing with the Houston Astros yesterday, candidates reportedly include Gio Gonzalez and Ervin Santana. Gio won 21 games back in 2012, is just two seasons removed from posting a 2.96 ERA, and has been to the postseason multiple times for the Washington Nationals and last season with the Milwaukee Brewers. Santana’s 2018 was pretty much a loss due to recurring symptoms related to a finger injury, but just one year prior, Santana had arguably his best season to date, winning 16 games and posting a 3.28 ERA with the Minnesota Twins. Yankees fans will remember him from the 2017 Wild Card Game, when he lasted just two innings while giving up four earned runs (including two home runs). The righty has never been much of a strikeout pitcher and seems to struggle to get to 200 innings each season, but a healthy Santana could be a solid piece in the back of that rotation. If the Yankees do add one of these pieces, or promote one of their promising young arms in the farm system, that rotation will look better than Boston’s. At every level, the Yankees have done better on the pitching front. So far, the only bullpen help the Red Sox have acquired this offseason is in the form of Jenrry Mejia to a minor league contract. Mejia was suspended in February 2015 for PEDs, and then again that July for another failed test. After failing a third test, Mejia was handed a “lifetime ban” by Major League Baseball in February 2016. The ex-Mets closer applied for reinstatement to the league last summer, and was granted his return in 2019. Although this is a low-risk scenario, and there is a good chance he won’t make the team, Red Sox fans should demand more from the organization than Jenrry Mejia. Craig Kimbrel is still out there and could probably be had for a discount at this point, but the Braves and others may pursue the free agent with more urgency. Meanwhile, the Yankees just signed Danny Farquar to a minor league deal. Farquar is a major league-caliber reliever who is looking to make a comeback after suffering a brain hemorrhage shortly after an appearance for the White Sox in April 2018. In a crowded bullpen, which now includes Zach Britton and Adam Ottavino, it remains to be seen if the righty will have a role with the big club this season as he continues his inspiring comeback from a near-death medical emergency. Even if the Red Sox do end up signing Kimbrel, a strong relief core behind Aroldis Chapman gives the Yankees the better bullpen. Although all indications point to the Yankees not being in on Harper or Machado at this point, they have done plenty on the pitching side this offseason to close the gap to the Red Sox. I am not making a division pick here, but on paper the Yankees have the stronger roster as we approach Spring Training.