Yankees rumors: Team could fill back of rotation internally

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

The Yankees may not sign another starting pitcher if they are unable to acquire Masahiro Tanaka, leaving two holes in the rotation to be filled by pitchers already on the team.

If the New York Yankees are unable to land Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka, they may choose to fill the remaining two rotation spots internally, reports Jorge Castillo of the Newark Star-Ledger.

Tanaka, 25, has been a top Yankees target since rumors first popped up that the Rakuten Golden Eagles could post him. However, the expiration of the previous posting system delayed his possible MLB signing, and the advent of the new system may cause Rakuten to keep Tanaka rather than posting him. Even if Tanaka is posted, the Yankees can no longer win exclusive negotiating rights by posting the highest bid. Instead, all 30 MLB teams can talk to Tanaka, including the Cubs, Rangers, Red Sox and Dodgers, all of whom have shown immense interest in the 25-year-old star.

Thus, New York might not be able to bring Tanaka aboard for the 2014 season, leaving them with a rotation of 39-year-old Hiroki Kuroda, recently struggling CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, and two question marks. The team has a number of options to fill the back of the rotation, but the quality of those options can be called into question.

Yankee's general manager Brian Cashman said that he would "have to be" comfortable with utilizing two pitchers on the current roster to fill out the starting staff.

"We’re focusing solely on what’s available in the marketplace," Cashman told the Star-Ledger. "And also recognizing and restating that we might not get everything answered with an exclamation point or the comfort level that we’d prefer."

Top options on the roster to fill a starting role include Michael Pineda, David Phelps, Manny Banuelos, David Huff, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno.

Pineda may be the best candidate to take a spot in the rotation. He was acquired from the Mariners in exchange for top prospect Jesus Montero following the 2011 season. Pineda was an All Star that year for seattle, posting a 3.74 ERA and 1.10 WHIP as a rookie. However, he has yet to pitch for the Yankees after shoulder surgery cost him a year and a half. He spent the second-half of 2013 in the minors regaining his form but could be on the verge of a major league return.

Phelps made 12 starts and 10 relief appearances for the Yankees last year, pitching to a 4.98 ERA. Huff has received starting chances in the past and not done well. Warren also made two starts, but spent most of the year in the bullpen. He did well at preventing runs, but a 1.43 WHIP indicates he could run into trouble with more innings. Nuno made five starts in Triple-A and five appearances in the MLB before an injury cost him the second-half of the 2013 season. He had pitched very well up to that point, though. Banuelos is a former top prospect who is coming off of Tommy John surgery.

The Yankees' internal options may not be the most attractive options, but there is certainly talent among them. For a New York team hoping to return to the playoffs, the question is whether that will be enough to supplement the rest of the rotation.

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