June 14--Hal Steinbrenner said it for a while now: the Yankees need more starting pitching.
And that need has only become more urgent given that Masahiro Tanaka is out for the next several weeks with injured hamstrings while Jordan Montgomery's season is over due to Tommy John surgery.
Plus, Sonny Gray struggled against another quality opponent on Wednesday night, giving up four runs on seven hits in five innings as the Bombers lost, 5-4, to the Nationals at Yankee Stadium.
The 28-year-old righty played with fire for a while without ever really getting burned -- despite a 34-pitch first inning in which he gave up only one run, and some trouble he escaped in both the second and third. But he was done in when he couldn't get the final out of the fourth.
Maybe Juan Soto's three-run homer was a wall-scraper to left, but it wouldn't have come to that had Gray not lost Daniel Murphy after getting ahead of the ex-Met 0-2 with two outs and nobody on, walking him to ignite Washington's rally.
Gray was coming off back-to-back strong starts, but they came against Baltimore and Detroit. In six starts against .500 or better teams, Gray has a 7.53 ERA.
After the game, Gray, who has an injury history, was sporting a soft brace on his pitching elbow, something he claimed to wear every day, though he wouldn't say why when asked during an awkward exchange with the media.
All that being said, it's up to Brian Cashman to make something happen with the deep farm system he's built. And he may have to get creative given the marketplace at this current stage.
"I think there's definitely a need, it's definitely one of the areas we're going to be looking at," Steinbrenner said at MLB's Park Avenue headquarters earlier in the day. "We've got some flexibility payroll wise, as you know. The question is what's going to be available and what are the (asking prices)?"
Ownership's mandate to stay under the $197 million luxury-tax threshold isn't changing, but Steinbrenner said that shouldn't be a problem, even if they have to acquire additional starting pitching.
"We purposely left a decent amount of money just for this," Steinbrenner said.
It will basically come down to cost in terms of young talent, and final recommendations from Cashman to his bosses.
The Bombers were unable to land Gerrit Cole in the offseason, unwilling to give up the likes of Gleyber Torres or Miguel Andujar, and Cole has gone 7-1 with a 2.16 ERA for Houston. The goal would be a similar impact starter behind Luis Severino, but that guy, such as a Madison Bumgarner or Jacob deGrom, may not become available.
Cole Hamels entered Wednesday's outing versus the 34-32 Dodgers with a 2.93 ERA in his first 10 starts against teams with .500 or better records this season. But one scout told the Daily News the Rangers' veteran southpaw is a No. 4 starter at this point in his career. And the remaining money on his $22.5 million salary for 2018 may be difficult to fit into the Yankees' luxury-tax payroll.
Detroit's Michael Fulmer has struggled. Would Toronto or Tampa be willing to deal a J.A. Happ or Chris Archer, respectively? Rays lefty Blake Snell would be really intriguing, but the cost for the 25-year-old could be too much to part with. San Diego's Tyson Ross could be available. Or perhaps Cashman will find an out-of-the-box solution.
Whatever the future holds, the Yankees are currently relying on youngsters like Domingo German and Jonathan Loaisiga, who will make his MLB debut on Friday. Justus Sheffield, the team's top pitching prospect, could become a factor at some point as well.
On the current roster, the Yankees clearly need more consistency out of Gray, while CC Sabathia, at 37, has produced back-to-back solid starts after four straight poor outings.
In an ideal world, the Bombers would be able to deal for a starter now rather than later. But that doesn't appear to be the case as of now.
"Theoretically, that would be great. But you know as well as I do that the (asking prices) would be pretty high," Steinbrenner said. "So let's see about Loaisiga. I think German has fit in nicely. We've got Sheffield, Chance Adams. This kid (Erik) Swanson that we got in the Texas trade (for Carlos Beltran) we just brought up to Triple-A. So we've got some options for August and September.
"But again, we're going to look at anything that comes across our desk."
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