The Yankees currently have CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova locked into the front three spots of their 2014 rotation – but who is going to fill the remaining two?
News broke Thursday that Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka, a reported top target of the Yankees, may not be posted, preventing him from pitching in the U.S.
That leaves the Yankees with some intriguing, if not thrilling, free agent options, such as Matt Garza, Paul Maholm, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez, or an uncertain – and somewhat bleak – trade landscape.
Or they could look within.
Here’s a glimpse at four starting options that currently reside on the team’s 40-man roster:
Vidal Nuno, LHP
Nuno, 26, made five appearances (three starts) for the Yankees in 2013. He gave up four runs in 17 innings during his starts, allowing 11 hits and six walks, and striking out seven.
Nuno didn’t garner much prospect buzz in the minors. He was selected in the 48th round of the 2009 draft by the Indians, but was released by Cleveland in March 2011 before signing with the Yankees that June.
His arsenal includes a slider, curveball, change and a fastball that clocked in at 88 mph last season.
But despite the lack of standout “stuff”, Nuno has always gotten the job done with characteristically excellent control.
In 428 minor league innings, Nuno has an outstanding 1.09 WHIP and 5.05 strikeout to walk rate. He’s struck out 409 batters. That precision has led to a career 2.84 ERA in the minors that made it difficult for the Yankees to overlook him in 2013.
David Phelps, RHP
Phelps, 27, has bounced between the bullpen and rotation during two years in the Bronx.
As a starter he has a 4.39 ERA in 123 innings (23 starts) with a 2.28 K/BB ratio and 1.34 WHIP. As a reliever he’s posted a 3.55 ERA in 63.1 innings (32 games) with a 2.62 K/BB ratio and 1.21 WHIP.
Phelps utilizes a fastball, cutter, curve and change combination. His fastball averaged 89.9 mph in 2013, down from 90.8 mph in 2012.
Adam Warren, RHP
Warren, 26, was actually in the same University of North Carolina rotation as crosstown pitching sensation Matt Harvey. But unlike Harvey, Warren was never considered to have front-of-the-rotation upside.
He’s been deployed mostly out of the bullpen as a Yankee, making just one forgettable start in 2012 before finding a relief home in 2013. His fastball checked in at 92.7 mph in 2013 and he also throws a slider, change and curve.
Warren posted an impressive 45.3 percent groundball rate in 2013, but is not a dominant force. He walked 30 and struck out just 64 in 77 innings last season, leading to a 1.42 WHIP and 2.13 K/BB ratio. Those figures were probably more instructive of his talent than his 3.39 ERA.
Michael Pineda, RHP
Pineda is actually the youngest of this group at just 24 years old, despite making his major league debut for the Mariners in 2011.
Pineda posted a 3.74 ERA that season, was an All-Star and finished fifth in American League Rookie of the Year voting. He was then traded to the Yankees for Jesus Montero in a move that hasn’t panned out well for either team – so far.
But while Montero has been a dud in Seattle due to underperforming and a performance-enhancing drug-related suspension, Pineda’s problems have been related to injuries. If healthy this Spring, he probably gets first crack at a rotation spot.
And for good reason.
Pineda’s potential is through the roof, with a fastball that was clocked at 94.7 mph in 2011 and a devastating slider. He also mixes in an occasional change.
He made 10 starts across three levels of the Yankees minor league system in 2013, posting a 3.32 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 9.1 strikeout per nine innings rate in 40.2 innings.