HomeMLB RumorsYankees Acquire JT Brubaker From Pirates

Yankees Acquire JT Brubaker From Pirates

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The Yankees have acquired right-hander JT Brubaker and international bonus pool space from the Pirates for a player to be named later, per announcements from both clubs. Prior to the official announcements, Alex Stumpf of MLB.com reported on that Brubaker was going to the Yanks for a PTBNL. The righty is on the 60-day injured list, recovering from last year’s Tommy John surgery. He won’t need a roster spot with the Yankees but won’t be available to them immediately. Per Stumpf, via Bryan Hoch of MLB.com, Brubaker is targeting a return around the All-Star break.

Brubaker, 30, missed the entire 2023 season after requiring Tommy John in mid-April. In the three preceding seasons, he had been one of the steadier arms on Pittsburgh’s staff. He tossed 315 2/3 innings over the 2020 to 2022 campaigns, one of which was shortened by the pandemic, with an earned run average of 4.99.

Though that ERA may not be terribly exciting, it’s possible that it doesn’t represent his true skill level, with some underlying metrics painting a more favorable picture. He struck out 23.3% of batters faced in that stretch and walked 7.8%, with both of those numbers being slightly better than average for a starting pitcher in the modern game. His 44% ground ball rate was also right around typical league average.

The discrepancy may be down to luck, as his .313 batting average on balls in play and 70.1% strand rate have both been on the unfortunate side of par. ERA estimators like his 4.43 FIP and 4.04 SIERA suggest he may have deserved better. That was especially true in 2022, when he had a 4.69 ERA but a 3.92 FIP and 3.97 SIERA.

But it’s also possible the difference is down to Brubaker’s struggles with lefties, something explored by MLBTR’s Anthony Franco prior to Brubaker’s surgery. He only throws his changeup about 5.5% of the time and hasn’t had great results with it, meaning he doesn’t have a great weapon for tackling lefty hitters. Lefties have hit .269/.339/.481 against him, compared to a line of .272/.342/.391 from righty-swinging opponents.

Whether the Yankees can help Brubaker find another gear remains to be seen, but there’s likely some appeal even if he remains a back-of-the-rotation kind of guy. The Yankees were looking for starting pitching this offseason, even after signing Marcus Stroman. Their need for rotation reinforcements was only increased with the recent news that Gerrit Cole is going to miss some time with an elbow issue.

Cole and Brubaker may be on somewhat similar timelines, as Cole was also placed on the 60-day IL, putting him on the shelf until at least late May but with an uncertain timeline after that. Brubaker won’t be able to help out during Cole’s absence but other injuries could crop up throughout the season that could require reinforcements. The Yankees currently have Stroman, Nestor Cortes and Carlos Rodón in three rotation spots, all three of whom missed significant time last year. Luis Gil won a rotation spot out of camp despite missing most of the past two seasons recovering from his own Tommy John surgery.

More to come.


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