Even with Luis Severino missing almost all of this season with injuries, the Yankees sat out the trading deadline and left their rotation intact. The Astros dealt not just for Greinke but for another starter, Aaron Sanchez, who looked good until injuring his shoulder in August.
The Yankees’ best recent acquisition is infielder D.J. LeMahieu, who signed a two-year free-agent contract last winter. LeMahieu’s last at-bat of the season was fitting: a 10-pitch triumph that ended with a game-tying homer to right in the ninth inning of Game 6.
As a contact hitter who slugs, LeMahieu is exactly the kind of player teams need against elite pitching in tight October games. The Astros have a bunch of them. The Yankees — who just set a franchise record for strikeouts by their hitters — need more.
Mostly, though, they need starters they will allow to pitch deep into games — specifically Cole, who will be a free agent and should easily top the record contract for a pitcher: David Price’s seven-year, $217 million deal with Boston.
Here are the seven pitchers who have ever signed contracts worth at least $175 million: Price, Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Greinke, Verlander, Felix Hernandez and Stephen Strasburg. Four — Verlander, Greinke, Scherzer and Strasburg — will be pitching in the World Series this week. Kershaw helped the Los Angeles Dodgers win pennants in 2017 and 2018. Price has been injured at times, but he also won the clinchers in the A.L.C.S. and the World Series last fall, both on short rest.
The Yankees have not spent nine figures on a starter since 2014, when they wisely signed Masahiro Tanaka for seven years and $155 million. They have outspent the field for relievers Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton and Adam Ottavino, while asking for less of their starters than almost any other team. It is time to rethink the model.
“You watch the Nationals that are in the World Series, and these guys, obviously, with their rotation — starters is still the way to go,” Britton said after Game 6, acknowledging that the Yankees’ relievers were exhausted by the end. “If you have a great bullpen, that only helps you. But having four to five guys in the rotation that give you innings is still the formula to win. We came really close with our formula.”