It’s only mid-November and the New York Yankees have already made a couple of moves to bolster their 2016 squad. They traded utility guy Jose Pirela to the San Diego Padres for 20-year old, right handed pitching prospect Ronald Herrera. In a bigger move, they sent catcher John Ryan Murphy to the Minnesota Twins for outfielder Aaron Hicks, who if you recall, made this amazing thrown against the Yanks a couple of years ago. There is one big move I would like to see New York make and this time it does not involve a trade. I would like to see an upgrade to the starting rotation but I don’t want them to get locked into a seven-year contract that breaks the bank. In other words, nothing remotely close to the deal the Washington Nationals gave Max Scherzer or, for that matter the wretched one the Yanks handed to Jacoby Ellsbury. I want this team to upgrade their rotation by signing Wei-Yin Chen.
The Yankees desperately need an dependable arm and Chen fits the bill. In his four seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, he made more than 30 starts in three of them. Granted, he is not a guy that goes particularly deep in games as he has never hit the 200 inning plateau as of yet. However, he does possess a career Major League ERA of 3.72 pitching half his home games in the hitter-friendly confines of Camden Yards. Think about how good he can be throwing in Yankee Stadium which is always much more favorable to left-handed pitchers. Since we have no idea what to expect out of C.C. Sabathia in 2016, turning to the younger, more effective Chen makes perfect sense for the otherwise all-right-handed staff of the Yankees. Signing Chen would instantly make him the most reliable arm, quite frankly, there is serious doubt as to whether or not anyone else on the staff will be making 30 starts.
As for the type of contract Chen will command, expect it to be healthy. There will be several teams bidding for his services, not the least of which will be his former team. He will be a sought-after arm after clubs start signing the top tier of starting pitchers including David Price and Zack Greinke. Chen is in a tier below those two along with Jeff Samardzija, Mike Leake and Yovani Gallardo. The difference is that Chen is the only lefty available via free agency and therefore, more attractive. He made less than $5 million dollars in 2015. It is not out of the realm of possibility that he triples that number per year in a four-year deal. He turns 31 on July 21st so those numbers seem to be reasonable in this market.
The days of the Yankees paying big money on long-term contracts to starting pitchers seem to be over for the Yankees. That doesn’t mean they won’t be active in free agency. In order to keep re-building while remaining competitive, certain moves need to be made that can help both in the short run and in the course of re-tooling the franchise. The signing of Wei-Yin Chen would be the perfect next step in the New York Yankees’ evolution.