NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees' hunt for starting pitching just got more intense.
When the organization learned this week that left-hander Jordan Montgomery would undergo Tommy John surgery, ending his 2018 season, the team was forced to redouble its efforts to add depth to a rotation already in need of it.
If the Yankees are to live up to widespread expectations and play deep into October, let alone keep up with the Red Sox in the AL East, they'll need help beyond ace Luis Severino.
Sevvy has been nothing short of brilliant so far, posting a 9-1 record with a 2.20 ERA and 102 strikeouts in 13 starts. But other Yankees starters haven't been nearly as dominant, logging just 16 wins across 46 starts with a combined ERA above 4.
Inconsistent as these outings have been, the Yankees still say they're confident in the players in their rotation -- and they might have a point, given the team's winning percentage.
Still, with spot starter Domingo German now slipping into a more permanent role with Montgomery out for the year, the Yankees -- who were already eyeing pitching before the injury -- know what another tried-and-true arm could mean.
"I feel like we need pitching more than anything else," general manager Brian Cashman told MLB.com well before news of Montgomery's surgery.
With baseball's non-waiver trade deadline still more than seven weeks away, and with the Yankees enjoying farm system depth ripe for the picking, it isn't too early to start looking at pitchers (both outside and inside the organization) whom the Yankees could consider bringing to the Bronx to bolster their pitching staff.
Here are a few early names to keep in mind:
Jacob deGrom (New York Mets): At present, there's very little reason to believe deGrom or his Mets teammate Noah Syndergaard will end up switching Big Apple allegiances this summer. It seems more likely the Yankees will make a trade with a team not located in the Northeast, or in Flushing. And Mets GM Sandy Alderson contends his reeling team -- losers of six straight entering Friday and tumbling down the NL East standings -- will rebound and won't be in seller's mode at the deadline. But of course, ahead of this weekend's Subway Series between the inter-borough foes, a possible Yankees/Mets trade has been a topic of discussion on sports talk radio and in the tabloids.
There's no shortage of reasons deGrom would be attractive to the Yankees. The 29-year-old has a 4-0 record with a 1.49 ERA in 12 starts, and some of his advanced statistics are among the best in baseball. He has one of the lowest hard-hit percentages among major league pitchers, per Statcast, checking in with a 24.0 percent hard-hit rating. He's averaging a barrel percentage of 3.0 percent, half the number of the 6.0 percentage average major league pitchers allow. His average 84.3 mph allowed exit velocity also ranks among the lowest in the majors.
DeGrom has long had a penchant for strikeouts, too. His 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings this year ranks even higher than Severino's 10.7. If deGrom played for a contender, he might be getting his share of early Cy Young buzz.
Noah Syndergaard (Mets): A flamethrower with pitches that move, Thor is also clearly appealing. His 76 strikeouts in 64 2/3 innings are a good indication of how difficult hitting him can be. Still, his control and command haven't been as sharp at times as they've been in the past. For one, he's already plunked a career-high four batters.
Perhaps even more than deGrom, the odds Syndergaard ends up in pinstripes are long. Of late, he's been nagged by a finger injury. Although the plan is for him to pitch against the Yankees during this weekend's series, he's been battling the injury the past couple of weeks. Before making a rehab start Tuesday, Syndergaard hadn't pitched in a game since May 25. Just after that outing, he went on the disabled list due to a strained ligament in his right index finger.
Still, that's not exactly a deal-breaker. What might be, though, is the price deGrom (who'll be 30 at the deadline) or Syndergaard (just 25) would command in return -- particularly with the two teams involved and the possible PR fallout. The Yankees have talent to trade, though.
"We've got a lot of guys in Triple-A that would be on major league rosters without question elsewhere," Cashman told reporters. Among others, the Mets could ask for minor league outfielder Estevan Florial. The 20-year-old speedster is highly regarded in the organization; if Florial is part of any trade-deadline deal this summer, it would mean the Yankees are pulling out all the stops to land an elite pitcher.
There's a lot to like about Hamels. For starters, he's a lefty. With Montgomery gone, the Yankees have just one of those in their rotation right now: CC Sabathia.
Sabathia, who turns 38 just 10 days before the trade deadline, largely has been effective this year. He doesn't strike out hitters like he used to, but he's gotten his share of soft contact. He's managed to pitch smarter and more efficiently as his velocity has decreased. Hamels, who's never dazzled with his pitch speed, has pitched in a similar crafty manner for much of his career.
Hamels also has big-game experience in October. Although he was roughed up by the Bombers in the 2009 World Series as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies, he earned National League Championship Series and World Series MVP honors the year before, when Philly knocked off the Dodgers and Rays, respectively.
Although he's 3-5 with a 3.63 ERA on the young season, Hamels had one of his best starts of the year facing New York's vaunted offense last month in Texas. Across seven innings -- tied for his longest start of the year -- he struck out seven and allowed four hits. Two of the hits were solo homers, but they weren't enough to hurt him. He walked away with the win, before tossing a similarly impressive stat line at the Angels on the road last week.
If they're willing to let go of Hamels, the Rangers might look for young pitching in return. Much as it is with position players like Florial, the Yankees' farm system is packed with pitching talent. Triple-A starters Chance Adams, Justus Sheffield and Josh Rogers are the headliners, along with Double-A starter Jonathan Loaisiga and Class A's Albert Abreu.
Madison Bumgarner (San Francisco Giants): Much like Hamels, Bumgarner is a veteran with postseason experience -- "postseason experience" being an understatement -- who could be an invaluable addition to a team trying to contend like the Yankees.
One problem here: As mediocre as the Giants have been for much of the year, the rest of the National League West has been right there with them. That means, for now, San Francisco very much remains in the division race. It could be until late in July before any team in the division waves the white flag and becomes a trade-deadline seller.
A three-time World Series champion, and a World Series MVP, the 28-year-old Bumgarner has made just one start this season -- on Tuesday, when he allowed eight hits and two runs in a six-inning outing against the NL West-leading Diamondbacks. Bumgarner was coming back from a long DL stint for a broken finger.
If something were to happen to put the Giants into sell mode, there'd be no shortage of suitors for the lefty. Count former Yankees slugger and current ESPN and FOX Sports analyst Alex Rodriguez among those who believe New York would be the best fit for the lefty. "If you can go to the Yankees and get three or four of their stellar farm-system players, and you need them to rebuild, here's the best thing. If you're the Giants, you get to sell the paper ... you get to sell that contract," Rodriguez said this week on FS1.
Bumgarner will earn $12 million in each of the next two seasons, but A-Rod estimates his worth in each of those years to be closer to $35 million. Which only helps to ensure San Francisco's asking price will be steep.
Justus Sheffield (Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre): At this stage, Sheffield doesn't seem to be a likely candidate to get called up, and neither does his Triple-A teammate Chance Adams.
Both could be possible trading chips. The right-handed Adams has a lot of upside, although he's had a somewhat inconsistent year in the minors.
Consistency also has been a problem at the Triple-A level for Sheffield, the highly touted 22-year-old from Tennessee who was promoted from Double-A Trenton earlier this spring. A left-hander with velocity in the mid-to-upper 90s, Sheffield has the "stuff" that likely will make him part of the Yankees' rotation someday, but in five starts at Triple-A, he has gone 0-2 with a 3.80 ERA. While his 19 strikeouts across 21 1/3 innings are head-turning, so are his 12 walks.
Some other names to consider:
• Trevor Williams (Pittsburgh Pirates): At 5-3 with a 3.84 ERA, Williams has been enjoying some of the best success of his young career. The 26-year-old also has the lowest walks-per-nine-innings percentage (2.9) of his career.
• J.A. Happ (Toronto Blue Jays): The 35-year-old hasn't had much success against the Yankees (he's allowed 16 homers in 17 career games), but he's performed well this season for Toronto. In addition to his 7-3 record, his 87 strikeouts have pushed him to one of the best strikeouts-per-nine percentages of his career.
• Tyson Ross (San Diego Padres): A former second-round pick, Ross is having one of the best starts of his nine-year career. The 31-year-old has a 5-3 record with a 3.31 ERA -- and his team, while not out of the race just yet, is in last place.
• Chris Archer (Tampa Bay Rays): The veteran's ERA has topped 4.00 the past two seasons, and it's at 4.24 this year. And while his strikeout rates had remained high, this year they're a little down. His 9.0 strikeouts per nine innings are more than two fewer than he had last season.
• Patrick Corbin (Arizona Diamondbacks): Much like Bumgarner's Giants, if Corbin's D-backs were to slip by late July, he could be a logical and attractive option. The lefty, who grew up a Yankees fan, is 6-2 with a 2.87 ERA and 105 strikeouts.