Yankees Pull Off Trade for Pitcher as Loss of $324 Million Star Calls for Depth

Getty The New York Yankees have acquired pitcher JT Brubaker from the Pittsburgh Pirates as their rotation succumbs to injury.

Yankees Trade for Pitcher JT Brubaker in Wake of Gerrit Cole Injury -  Heavy.com

An already shallow New York Yankees pitching staff took a major blow before the season started as franchise ace Gerrit Cole went down with an elbow injury.

Cole, who is entering the fifth year of a $324 million contract, is now projected to remain sidelined until at least June 1, forcing the Yankees to find more pitching depth elsewhere. The team anointed 25-year-old Luis Gil as the rotation’s fifth member to start the season and it has now pulled off a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates to acquire $2.75 million right-hander JT Brubaker as another potential option later on in the season.

Who Did the New York Yankees Acquire From the Pittsburgh Pirates in JT Brubaker?

Brubaker underwent Tommy John surgery in April 2023 and is projected to return sometime in midseason. The Yankees also received international signing bonus money from the Pirates in exchange for a player to be named later, per MLB.com.

In a three-year big-league career with the Pirates, Brubaker has seen 315.2 innings with a 4.99 ERA and 324 strikeouts. In his last healthy season of 2022, when he was the Pirates’ Opening Day starter, he pitched for a 4.69 ERA in 28 starts.

Those numbers are not particularly encouraging, but there’s reason to believe the Yankees can help him optimize his arsenal and develop into a serviceable starter or bullpen option.

“Working on some changes in the spring 2023 prior to his injury, Brubaker had 15 punchouts in only 8 frames, enough to make you look at what was different,” Estevao Maximo wrote for Pinstripe Alley. “It’s not far-fetched to project the Yankees’ being able to work with him on the optimization of a sweeper, a pitch better served for his profile than the curve that did work well in a short sample.”

Brubaker’s contract also gives the Yankees some flexibility to make this acquisition a low-risk one.

“Brubaker is owed $2.275 million this year and will remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player in 2025,” Mike Axisa reported for CBS Sports. “He also has two minor league options remaining, meaning the Yankees can send him to Triple-A in 2024 and 2025 without exposing him to waivers. That gives them a little roster flexibility as he works his way back from elbow surgery.”

How Does the New York Yankees Rotation Look for 2024?

Though Brubaker likely won’t be a help in the rotation if Cole’s absence is as brief as hoped, the Yankees could use some more depth beyond their front-line starter. As currently constructed, their staff is counting on an injury bounceback not just from Cole, but from Gil, Carlos Rodon and Nestor Cortes as well.

Cortes’ journey back to dominant form got off to a rocky start on Opening Day, as he gave up four earned runs in five innings to the Houston Astros, though the team won the game anyway.

Brubaker might be a longer-term project, but it seems likely the team could use an improved and healthy version of the right-hander as soon as possible. Even with him in the fold, though, they might not have enough pitching to realize World Series aspirations.

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