The Yankees’ signing of Gerrit Cole is believed to be the final piece of the puzzle to secure the franchise’s 28th World Series championship.
But when it comes down to an X-factor for this Yankees squad, the key to how far the Yankees will go this season may lie in the rotation behind Cole.
Specifically, James Paxton.
MLB insider Mark Feinsand joined Mike Francesa on WFAN on Tuesday to discuss the upcoming season, and he pointed to the veteran southpaw as the key to the Yankees’ success.
“They know what they’re gonna get from Cole. If [Masahiro] Tanaka comes abck you know what you’re gonna see form him; he’s as steady as a guy goes,” Feinsand said. “They need that third pitcher to step up and take some pressure off the back end. Paxton, going into a contract year, certainly has pressure on him to deliver.”
Paxton, 31, was counted on to be the Yankees’ ace last season after they traded for him in the winter. He went 15-6 with a 3.82 ERA, including 1-0 with a 3.46 ERA in three postseason appearances.
He did, however, miss some time in the regular season due to a knee injury, and is coming off back surgery to remove a cyst in early February and has a knack for struggling in the first inning.
But if he can be a reliable option in the middle of the rotation, the Yankees will be hard to be in the regular season and October.
“If Paxton doesn’t get off to a good start or doesn’t have a good year, that rotation is going to look a lot thinner,” Feinsand said. “Even with Cole on top of it.”