With their rotation decimated by injuries, the Yankees need starting pitching help. This was true last week, but is even more true now that Masahiro Tanaka will be out of commission for at least the next six weeks — and possibly much, much longer. Hiroki Kuroda, Brandon McCarthy, and even David Phelps are serviceable starting pitchers, but the back end of the rotation — currently occupied Shane Greene and Chase Whitley — leaves a lot to be desired. Throw in the glaring lack of starting pitchers in the Triple-A pipeline and the need for an upgrade is pretty clear.
At 40-55, the Rockies are are 13 games out of first place and 12 games back in the wild card chase, and Fangraphs puts their playoff odds at a meager 0.1%. It’s pretty clear that the Rockies are going nowhere this year, and its only a matter of time before they start selling off their useful assets and start rebuilding for the future. One of those assets is Jorge De La Rosa, a 33-year-old starting pitcher whose contract is up at the end of the season. De La Rosa’s far from the biggest name out there, but he’s one of just a few starting pitchers left on the trading block now that Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel are in Oakland and Justin Masterson‘s on the DL. He could also be had for a much smaller prospect haul than the David Price‘s and Cliff Lee‘s of the world. De La Rosa could be a useful three-month rental for somebody and the Yankees seem like as good a landing spot as any.
With a 4.56 ERA, the veteran southpaw hasn’t fared so well in 2014, but actually wasn’t half bad last year. Despite pitching in Coors Field, he managed a 3.49 ERA in 30 starts — good enough for 39th in baseball for RA9-WAR. His ERA spike can be largely attributed to things out of his control — mainly worse luck on fly balls leaving the park — and the truth is probably somewhere in-between: His 4.39 SIERA from this season is right on par with last year’s 4.37 mark.
De La Rosa may not be quite as bad as his ERA would imply, but a 4.39 ERA is still pretty mediocre, and De La Rosa has a long history of mediocrity as evidenced by his 4.37 ERA across parts of 11 major league seasons. Simply put, there’s nothing sexy about him. While his strikeout and walk rates are both worse than league average, he does induce a good amount of ground balls. With the help of his splitter, which he throws roughly 25% of the time, more than half of his batted balls have been on the ground this year: His 52% groundball rate puts him 17th among qualified pitchers. He’s a guy who generally keeps the ball on the ground, which makes him a relatively good fit for Yankee Stadium, where fly balls have an annoying habit of leaving the ballpark.
Unlike some of the bigger names out there, the Yankees probably wouldn’t have to give up very much for De La Rosa’s services. Ricky Nolasco was a similar pitcher — in a similar contract situation — who was traded around this time last year, and he only cost the Dodgers three warm bodies. I’d imagine De La Rosa could probably be had for a similar package, especially if the Yankees were willing to pay the remainder of De La Rosa’s $11M 2014 salary. The Rockies reportedly want a “young impact starter” in exchange for De La Rosa. Those demands seem more than a little lofty and the Yankees don’t really have any of those anyway. Bryan Mitchell could fit that mold if you squint hard enough, so maybe they could put together something around him. That’s pure speculation, but that’s probably about what someone like De La Rosa would likely cost.
The projection systems anticipate De La Rosa’s rest-of-season performance will look a lot like what he’s done to date. ZiPS pegs him for a 4.77 ERA and Steamer’s 4.62 isn’t much better. Even so, that’s probably better than the Yankees would get from Greene, Whitley, Bruce Billings, or whoever else the Yankees decide to scrape from the bottom of the barrel. The Yankees will need to shore up their rotation if they want to make a playoff push this year, and De La Rosa would certainly be an upgrade. Nobody will mistake him for an ace, but at this point, he may be the best the Yankees can do, especially if they don’t want to part with any top-shelf prospects.
This article originally appeared on Pinstripe Alley.