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Pirate stud perfect fit as future Yankee

NY Daily NewsJOHN HARPER
Gerrit Cole fits bill as future Yankee ace if Brian Cashman is looking for stud to top rotation next winter.
USA TODAY SPORTS
IT'S CLEAR BY now how serious Brian Cashman is about holding onto the prospects he collected last summer, rather than dealing them for Chris Sale last month or Jose Quintana anytime soon.
"I like the trajectory we're on,'' the Yankees' GM said by phone on Tuesday, speaking of building with young talent. "We're being very careful to evaluate what we have and determine what's the best way to move forward. Hopefully 2017 will be a big step forward for most of our (top prospects), and after that we'll be much closer to what we need to know."
As I've written before, I believe it's the right way to proceed. The Yankees can't rush this rebuild, especially if they’re going to competewith theRed Sox, whohaveall that young talent and now Sale as an ace. But even if Cashman strikes gold with his position-player prospects the way Theo Epstein did with the Cubs, there is the question of who will pitch the Yankees back to the top of the mountain.
Cashman downplayed the question, saying he believes it's more important to build a depth of solid starters than have a bonafide ace.
"There are only about seven or eight of those guys walking around on the planet anyway,'' Cashman said. "We'd love to have an ace, but you still need five to seven starters (to be a championship-caliber team). It takes more than just an ace."
The Yankees have some depth of young pitching, and Cashman says he thinks potential 2017 starters Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Adam Warren, and Bryan Mitchell have a chance to be as good or better than more highly-touted prospects like Luis Severino, James Kaprielian, and Justus Sheffield.
He's also seems very excited about Chance Adams, a college reliever who dominated in Class-A and Double-A last year after being converted to a starter.
All of which sounds good, but I still think they'll need an ace, either emerging from their own system or being acquired by trade or free-agent signing.
So let's phrase the question this way: who will get the ball for Game 1 the next time the Yankees are in the World Series? Here my Top 10 candidates and the odds of them making that Game 1 start, whenever it arrives.
GERRIT COLE, 5-1: I think Cashman has a big trade in him next winter when he's closer to being, as he puts it, "one piece away." And Cole seems like a viable candidate, assuming he bounces back from elbow problems last season.
After next season the 26-year-old righthander will be two years away from free agency, and if he gets back to being one of the top power pitchers in baseball, it's hard to see the Pirates being able to afford him long-term.
The Yankees would love to complete the circle with Cole, having drafted him out of high school in 2008 only to be stunned when he decided to go to UCLA instead, and they should have a surplus of major-league ready talent to deal.
MATT HARVEY, 6-1: The backpage frenzy could be off the charts in two winters If the Mets let Harvey get to free agency in two seasons and the Yankees are indeed pursuing him. It could happen if Harvey bounces back from surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome and proves he can be an elite starter again in 2017. It's hard to see him signing long-term before reaching free agency as part of the ballyhooed class of 2018, partly because the Mets, with their other young starters, aren't going to meet Scott Boras' asking price.
SHOHEI OTANI, 6-1: The Japanese star would have been the heavy favorite before the new CBA raised the age limit to 25 on foreign players who wouldn't be subject to the new international spending caps. At age 22, Otani has to wait three more seasons before he'd be free to sign a deal worth hundreds of millions, and recently commissioner Rob Manfred told me he didn't see MLB making an exception for him.
Still, some baseball people think there are ways around it. Otani could sign a oneyear deal for $5 million, for example, and though he'd be subject to the MLB rules that allow free agency only after six seasons, a team could pay him whatever it wanted after the first year. However, as a prominent agent said, "there would be all sorts of ethical questions and trust issues on both sides that would make it complicated."
One way or another, even if they have to wait three more years, it feels like a move the Yankees might make.
MASAHIRO TANAKA, 8-1: Hehasn't quite been the overpowering ace the Yankees expected for $175 million, especially since injuring his elbow in 2014, but Tanaka was surely one of the top starters in the majors last season, nearly winning the AL ERA title.
Still, the fear lingers that his torn elbow ligament will blow out in the coming years, and to complicate matters, Tanaka has an opt-out after next season. Nevertheless, he's only 28 and unless they bring in another top starter next offseason, they may be forced to overpay to keep him.
YU DARVISH, 10-1:As a free agent next winter, Darvish is a possible alternative to Tanaka, though ideally the Yankees need to add to the top of their rotation, not exchange one starter for another. This will be Darvish's first full season since Tommy John surgery in 2015, and if he gets back to his pre-surgery dominance, he'll get some big offers as he goes into his age-31 season.
JAMES KAPRIELIAN, 12-1: TheYankees thought Kaprielian was on a fast track to the majors, in part because they consider him very polished and poised for his age, after taking him with the 16th pick in the 2015 draft, but then he missed most of last season with elbow issues.
The righthander out of UCLA was healthy by season's end and impressed scouts in the Arizona Fall Leagues. He turns 23 in March and is regarded as a high-ceiling prospect whose fastball is clocked as high as 97 mph.
LUIS SEVERINO, 12-1: He surelooked like a future ace during his first go-round in the majors late in the 2015 season, but Severino struggled badly last season with command and seemed to need a better changeup to go with his 97-mph fastball and his sharp-breaking slider.
He was far more dominant when the Yankees tried him as a reliever last season, but as Cashman said, "He's way too young'' at age 23 to give up on him as a starter.
CLAYTON KERSHAW, 20-1: The odds would be much, much lower if I thought the Dodgers would let him leave at any price as a free agent. If Kershaw is healthy he'll surely exercise his opt-out after the 2018 season, at age 30, and the Yankees might be in a position to offer him $40 million a year, but the Dodgers are the one team they probably can't outbid.
Acquired from the Indians in the Andrew Miller trade, Sheffield, at 5-foot-10, isn't the prototype ace, but the 20-year-old lefthander reaches 95 mph with his fastball and has very good breaking stuff that gives him a high ceiling as he heads for Double-A in 2017.JuStuS SHeffielD, 25-1:
CHANCE ADAMS, 25-1:A fifth-round draft choice in 2015 as a college reliever, Adams wowed the Yankees as a starter last year, dominating in Class A and Double A. Cashman used words like "annihilated" and "destroyed" to describe what the 22-year-old righthander did to hitters with a fastball that reached 97 mph and a four-pitch repertoire.
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