With no established major league starters beyond Masahiro Tanaka, C.C. Sabathia and Michael Pineda on their roster, the Yankees “have checked in on” free agent left-hander Travis Wood, tweets FanRag’s Jon Heyman. However, the Yankees “don’t necessarily seem at the forefront of talks” for Wood, whose market has heated up in recent days.
Wood, who turned 30 on Monday, worked exclusively out of the Cubs’ bullpen last season, but “multiple teams” have offered him opportunities to return to a starting role this winter. That could include the Yankees, who are currently set to have Luis Severino, Chad Green, Bryan Mitchell, Luis Cessa and Adam Warren battle for their final two rotation spots during the spring. Those five have combined for just 68 big league starts, whereas Wood piled up nearly twice as many (133) with the Reds and Cubs from 2010-15. Wood was fairly effective during that six-year, 776-inning span, too, as he recorded a 4.19 ERA, 7.11 K/9 and 3.15 BB/9.
While Wood is coming off a career-best season in terms of run prevention (2.95 ERA in 61 innings), he also had the good fortune of pitching in front of the Cubs’ all-world defense. His ERA masked a subpar K/BB ratio (1.96; well below the 2.53 league-average mark for relievers), and advanced metrics like FIP (4.54), xFIP (4.83) and SIERA (4.46) weren’t particularly impressed with his performance. Further, Wood generated ground balls at a meager 37.4 percent clip, and his careerlong trend of relying on fly balls – not to mention his below-average velocity and struggles against right-handed hitters – could make him a poor fit for Yankee Stadium and the AL East. To his credit, Wood has somewhat offset his lifetime 33.6 grounder percentage with an 11.9 percent infield fly rate, which climbed to a lofty 17.8 percent in 2016.
Regardless of whether it’s with the Yankees, Wood seems likely to land a deal soon. With spring training closing in and former Cubs teammate Jason Hammel now off the market, Wood is arguably the top starting-caliber arm available in free agency.