On Tuesday, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reported that Yankees second-year starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery will undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery later this week. Montgomery has been out since May 2 with a flexor strain in his pitching elbow, and despite recent indications that he was beginning to work his way back to health, the team will err on the side of caution with its promising young southpaw, who was 2–0 with a 3.62 ERA and 1.35 WHIP before hitting the disabled list.
On its face, the news shouldn’t be season altering for the Yanks. Montgomery entered the season as the team’s de facto no. 5 starter, and since he hit the shelf New York has gone 20–8 to stay within a game of the AL East–leading Red Sox. But given the inconsistency (Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia), inexperience (Domingo German), and mediocrity (Sonny Gray) among the non–Luis Severino members of the Yankees rotation, Montgomery’s surgery further exposes a potential Achilles’ heel for the World Series hopefuls. It also fully starts the Yankees trade-rumor mill, a midseason tradition unlike any other.
For months, it’s been speculated that general manager Brian Cashman, with his treasure trove of high-level prospects, would be on the hunt for a top-end starter to pair with Severino before the trade deadline. The loss of Montgomery has raised the stakes. As such, the names now being thrown out as possible trade targets have multiplied; some are reasonable, some are long shots, and some are outrageous to the point of driving fans (and a few Ringer employees) into fits of rage.
Let’s explore some pitchers the Yankees could pursue in the aftermath of the Montgomery news. We’ll break them into five separate tiers.
The Most Realistic Options
Cole Hamels, J.A. Happ, Tyson Ross
Hamels has been linked to New York for years now. As the lefty toils away on a last-place Rangers team, Cashman might see 2018 as the time to finally deal for him. Hamels has been good but not great this season, sporting a 3–5 record with a 3.63 ERA and 5.31 FIP. He’s also allowed 15 home runs in 12 starts, an ominous figure for someone who, in theory, would need to succeed at Yankee Stadium.
Still, in six collective starts against the Yankees’ three greatest adversaries — Boston, Houston, and Cleveland — and the Yankees themselves, Hamels has gone 2–1 with a 2.56 ERA, striking out 39 batters over 35.2 innings pitched. He’s a decorated veteran who has proved himself countless times in big moments, and he’s expected to be available considering that his contract expires after this season. Hamels does have a no-trade clause in his contract, but the Yankees are reported to be one of nine teams on his “trade-to” list.
Happ and Ross, meanwhile, are steady, cost-effective options on fast-fading clubs that, while not as sexy as some of the other names listed below, could bolster the stability of New York’s rotation. Ross is especially intriguing, given that he was once regarded as a top talent before losing his way in his first stint with the Padres. Neither would likely command much in terms of premium talent in a trade, so the Yankees could possibly continue big-game hunting even if they pulled off a deal for one of them.
The Change-of-Scenery Candidates
Michael Fulmer, Chris Archer
Both All-Stars in 2017, Fulmer and Archer have struggled through the opening months of the 2018 campaign. Fulmer has carried over his rocky finish from last season (0–4 with a 5.93 ERA in his final five starts of 2017), raising questions as to whether the ulnar nerve transposition surgery the 25-year-old underwent in September might have some lasting effects. Archer is now in his sixth full MLB season and has yet to parlay his unbridled talent into consistent, ace-level production. They both present risky options that the Yankees might not be prone to gamble on after the disappointing returns New York has gotten in the Sonny Gray deal with Oakland last July.
Regardless, both guys feature prolific arms that, at their best, would pair well with Severino at the top of the Yankees rotation. Both are also employed by prospect-deficient teams that will ostensibly be looking to sell. If Cashman thinks a fresh start could right their respective ships, one or both of these fuel-throwing righties could land on the Yankees’ radar.
NL Long Shots Almost Certain Not to Happen
Madison Bumgarner, Patrick Corbin
FREAK OUT! Bumgarner’s and Corbin’s names are embedded in the minds of rumor-starved Yankees fans, but the feasibility of either ace moving east remains unclear. Bumgarner looked solid — though he was outdueled by Corbin — in his highly anticipated return to the mound on Tuesday. With the Giants hanging around in a mediocre NL West, it’s hard to imagine that San Francisco would cede its most valuable beer-crushing connoisseur on the heels of a splashy, expectation-elevating offseason. (It is an even-numbered year, after all.)
Corbin, on the other hand, has voiced a strong desire to one day don pinstripes, but the chances of that happening in 2018 seem slim given that Arizona leads the NL West and the 28-year-old lefty is enjoying a breakout year. Through 13 starts, Corbin is posting career lows in ERA (2.87), WHIP (0.94), FIP (3.05), and batting average against (.188), in addition to striking out a higher percentage of batters than ever before. However, should the Diamondbacks falter in the coming weeks and Arizona’s management decide to accrue some value for Corbin rather than potentially lose him this winter, look for Cashman to pounce.
Let’s Start a Civil War
I kid! I kid! DeGrom was known as a stud before this season, and he’s taken his dominance to mind-bending heights thus far in 2018. The Mets can’t afford to lose him.
BUT — and stay with me here — what if deGrom decides his talent is wasted on a team that bats out of order, allows steals of home on routine pickoff attempts, and botches fan giveaways, and tries to force his way across town? What if the Mets ace’s preseason trim wasn’t so much a fashion statement as it was a declaration of intent?
And the biggest Mets news of the offseason is Jacob deGrom's haircut. Teammate Jose Reyes captured this from Citi Field today. ✂️✂️✂️ pic.twitter.com/TI3h5C0IJL— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) October 2, 2017
What if Cashman throws the kitchen sink at Mets GM Sandy Alderson: some combination of Clint Frazier, Miguel Andújar, Justus Sheffield, Chance Adams, and Estevan Florial? Who says no?
(The Mets. The Mets say no. And, frankly, the Yankees probably would, too. But it’s fun to imagine the postapocalyptic fallout of a blockbuster between these two. That Mike Francesa rant would be an all-timer.)
The Bullpen Megalodon Strategy
Kelvin Herrera, Brad Hand, Zach Britton
This is perhaps the most intriguing direction the Yankees could go in, and definitely the most unlikely. But does this look like a man content to play things safe? If Cashman strikes out on his first, second, third, and fourth deadline options, continuing his quest for a bullpen of Hydratic proportions — albeit at the expense of a reliable rotation — could be an interesting route. It’s a formula that worked for the Royals in 2015, and just last season New York came within one win of reaching the World Series largely on the strength of its timely hitting and superb bullpen.
Another added benefit of this strategy for the Yankees: It would have the potential to undercut the Astros, who could be in the market for bullpen reinforcements. Chess and checkers.