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Starting rotation does not make Yankees good enough

The Yankees starting rotation will prove to be the team's weakest link in their pursuit of their 28th championship.

Yankees fans couldn’t boast much this offseason. This is what happens when the Yankees did not bother to sign Bryce Harper and Manny Machado or could not acquire Madison Bumgarner. No splashy moves inspired them to get excited.

Acquiring James Paxton, resigning J.A. Happ, CC Sabathia and Zack Britton and signing Adam Ottavino and Troy Tulowitzki made up the Yankees’ offseason moves. While it qualifies as good baseball moves, it means all sizzle and no steak from an average Yankees fan’s perspective. No reason for their American League rivals to fear them based on that. If anything, dumping Sonny Gray generated more excitement than the Yankees’ offseason moves this offseason.

The Yankees starting rotation continues to be an Achilles’ heel for them to be taken seriously as a championship contender. It remains to be seen if Paxton can be a difference maker or he becomes Gray 2.0. Who knows if Luis Severino takes the next step? Counting on Sabathia is too much to ask at his age. Happ would be a No. 5 starter for great teams, but with the Yankees, he is a No. 4 starter out of necessity. Masahiro Tanaka’s inconsistency makes it hard for the Yankees to rely on, and he’s not getting any younger.

The Yankees tried to reinvent the game by loading up on relievers last season, but overusing them caught up to the team in the end, which limited their effectiveness in the postseason. Tough to believe it will be different the second time around.

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Starting rotation wins championships. It’s why the Red Sox celebrated a World Series championship last season. They featured four competent starters who can go deep in games and win. The Yankees don’t have a starter that is as good as the Red Sox starters. Unless Paxton performs well and they acquire another ace, the narrative remains the same: The Yankees can win so many regular season games, but do nothing in the postseason.

There’s no guarantee the Yankees can win the AL East or the wild-card spot this season. The Red Sox are the team to beat until proven otherwise.

This much for sure: If the Yankees are the wild-card team again, they definitely do not have a shot to go far in October. Home-field advantage makes so much difference as we saw with the Boston Red Sox against the Yankees in last year’s American League Division Series and Houston Astros against the Yankees in the American League championship series two years ago. By being the wild-card team, the job of winning championship No. 28 gets harder,

The Yankees can bludgeon teams by hitting home runs, especially against awful pitching. This loaded lineup gives fits to a pitcher, who will have a hard time getting guys out. No one can deny them of that.

But the Yankees must know how to manufacture runs and not be a feast or famine team where they hit home runs or strike out.

Their defense has to be better than they showed last year. Injuries make the difference between a team playing in the playoffs and not. Already, the Yankees listed Luis Severino, Aaron Hicks and Dellin Betances on the disabled list. Depth may not be enough for them to overcome injuries.

On paper, the Yankees look good, but too many things have to go right for them to win a
championship.

The Cleveland Indians have a better starting rotation than the Yankees. So do the Red Sox and Houston Astros. The Rays can make a case their starting rotation is better than last season with the addition of Charlie Morton as a free agent and one full year of Tyler Glasgow.

It always comes down to starting pitching. The Yankees starting rotation mirrors more of the rotation of the last decade than the championship years in the 90s. Too many No. 4 starters, and not enough No. 1 or 2 starters. Even if Paxton shines, they need more than him to be a difference maker in the starting rotation.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman knows he has to find that one more starter. Maybe he acquires him in the trade deadline if the San Francisco Giants realize for them to have a better tomorrow, they have to trade Bumgarner.

Until he gets it, the Yankees remain a question mark when it comes to how good their starting rotation is.

Much has been made about the Yankees not signing Harper or Machado, but even if they signed both, they are no better off than they were last year. Offense wasn’t the problem in the postseason. Their starting pitching was, and nothing changed from last year to this year.

Maybe the Yankees prove me wrong, but it’s hard to believe it with any of their starters’ track record.

A 10-year championship drought will be hard to avoid.

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