Carlos Rodón signing: Yankees rotation, led by ace Gerrit Cole, has huge upsides and huge question marks

The big news in Thursday night baseball was that the Yankees added southpaw Carlos Rodón to their rotation on a six-year, $162 million deal. After retaining Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo, the next major box to check this offseason for Brian Cashman’s front office was adding a big arm to the rotation and he did.

The Yankees now have a five-man rotation with very high potential, but there are questions throughout. Let’s dive into it.

The advantage: We have all seen it. Cole is arguably the best pitcher in baseball to not (yet?) win a Cy Young. He finished second by voting twice and has four top-five finishes. He’s twice led the Majors in strikeouts and led the AL with a 2.50 ERA in 2019. Every day he takes the ball, he’s capable of carrying his team with a dominant outing. It’s an ace, easily.

The question: To be a dominant pitcher, why is he giving up so many homers? He led the AL with 33 homers allowed last season. He allowed a home run in all three of his postseason starts and, in fact, gave up at least one home run in his last nine playoff starts since 2019. The longball problem was the main culprit in his inconsistency last season. , overall pitching at a 3.50 ERA (111 ERA+, his worst since leaving Pittsburgh by a wide margin).

Carlos Rodon

The advantage: Over the past two seasons, Rodón has made 55 starts and is 27-13 with a 2.67 ERA (157 ERA+), .998 WHIP and 422 strikeouts against 87 unintentional walks in 310 2/3 of sleeves. On a rate basis, he was one of the best and most dominant pitchers in baseball. He’s a left-handed ace to stand up alongside right-handed Cole!

Oh, and here’s a good stat: In four-seam fastball pace (with a 1,000-pitch minimum) last season, Cole was No. 1 and Rodón was No. 2 in all of baseball. The Yankees have the heat.

The question: Rodón suffered shoulder injuries in 2016 and 2021 and underwent Tommy John surgery in between. This means he started, per season, 12, 20, 7 and 2 games, respectively, from 2017-20. In 2021, it looked like his career year, but he only managed 23 innings in five starts. after August 7. As noted, the shoulder injury was cause for concern. Even making 31 starts last season, he only averaged 5 2/3 innings per start, totaling 178 on the season. It was the peak of his career.

Can he stay on the mound all season and, if he does, will he still be full for the playoffs? Or will he burn out in October and falter when the Yankees need him most?

The advantage: We just saw it! Nasty Nestor was one of the stars of 2022, making the All-Star team and finishing eighth in AL Cy Young voting. He is able to look like an ace in the lineup two or even three times. If he was seeded third in a playoff rotation, it would be reasonable to expect him to defend or even win a fair number of times.

The question: Is it repeatable?

Cortes has never been highly touted. The Yankees lost it in the Rule 5 draft to the Orioles, and then the Orioles returned it the following April. Then he was traded to the Mariners for “future considerations”, hit minor league free agency, and re-signed with the Yankees. He started 2021 as a minor.

He was a full-time starter last year, but that was for 28 starts and 158 1/3 innings. He also went through a difficult period in the middle of the season. It’s good that he’s only the three instead of being considered an ace, but there must still be some level of worry that 2022 will end up being a blurry season for the southpaw.

The advantage: The two-time All-Star has third and ninth place finishes in Cy Young voting to his credit. In those two seasons, he was 33-14 with a 3.18 ERA (137 ERA+), 1.09 WHIP and 450 strikeouts in 384 2/3 innings. He showed a lot of that advantage last season, too, when he was 7-3 with a 3.18 ERA (123 ERA+), 1.00 WHIP and 112 strikeouts in 102 innings. He looked like his old self when he was on the mound.

The question: Again, he stays on the mound. Those ace-level seasons were 2017-18. He has made just three starts in 2019, zero in 2020 and played four relief games in 2021. Last year, he was out between July 13 and September 21. Arm issues hampered much of his career, including shoulder issues and then Tommy. John surgery, the last of which came with several setbacks during his rehab. Last year it was a lat strain.

He can be great when he throws. He also has zero 200-inning seasons and only two more than his 102 last season, the most recent being 2018. You have to worry about getting him through the whole season and then, if he does, how badly he ‘d hold out until an eventual deep playoff run.

The advantage: The fifth of five men on this list who sports an upside-down ace, Montas looked like a Cy Young contender in 2019. In 16 starts, he was 9-2 with a 2.63 ERA (164 ERA +), 1.12 WHIP and 103 strikeouts in 96 innings. In 2021, Montas finished sixth in AL Cy Young voting with a strong all-around season (3.37 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 207 K, 187 IP, 3.6 WAR). Last year, before being traded to the Yankees, he had a 3.18 ERA with 109 strikeouts in 104 2/3 innings.

Questions: That 2019 season mentioned above? Yeah, it ended abruptly because he was suspended for a PED violation. It was then bad in 2020.

In eight starts for the Yankees after the trade last season, he had a 6.35 ERA. It’s only been 6 2/3 innings, but he has a brutal 9.45 playoff ERA.

At the bare minimum here we’re dealing with inconsistencies, plus a shoulder injury last season.

When he’s good, he’s outstanding, but the charts are littered with landmines. Which version are the 2023 Yankees getting for most of the season? What about when it matters most?

All in all, the Yankees have a rotation that is capable, when the going gets tough, of looking like five aces. It’s also not hard to see stretches where they have multiple members of the rotation on the injured list while at least one other struggles to keep runs off the board. It could be the roller coaster of a season with this group. Most roller coasters are fun, though, and there’s enough upside here to believe it’s going to be one of the best spins in baseball.

The Yankees haven’t won the AL pennant since 2009 and that’s an eternity for this franchise. They have made it to the ALCS three times in the past six seasons and all three times they have been eliminated by the Houston Astros. The defending World Series champions are going to have a very high rotation next season, but they lost Cy Young winner Justin Verlander to free agency while the Yankees brought in someone who can push for a Cy Young award. They are now aiming to topple their nemesis and finally return to the World Series. They’ve got the spin inside out to get the job done, but they’ll have to answer a lot of questions in the process.

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