Salazar, 32, was signed as an international free agent by Cleveland back in 2006. He climbed up the ranks of the minors and made his MLB debut in 2013. He had a tremendous four-year run from his debut through 2016, making 85 starts and throwing 484 1/3 innings. His ERA was 3.72 in that time, along with a 26.7% strikeout rate, 8.2% walk rate and 41.7% ground ball rate. He made the American League All-Star team in the last year of that stretch.
Unfortunately, cracks started to form in 2017, as Salazar struggled out of the gate and was demoted to the bullpen, though he would eventually reclaim his spot in the rotation. He finished the year with a 4.28 ERA over 103 innings, while missing time with shoulder issues. From there, bad went to worse as Salazar was diagnosed with right shoulder rotator cuff inflammation just as 2018 Spring Training was about to begin. After many failed attempts to heal his ailing shoulder, he eventually underwent exploratory surgery in June, which prevented him from taking the mound at all that year.
He was able to return to a big league mound in August of 2019, though he was trying to pitch through a groin issue and had severely diminished velocity compared to his previous form. He made a single four-inning start before being placed on the injured list a few days later and hasn’t pitched in a big league game since. He was outrighted at the end of the season.
At this point, it would be an incredible comeback story if Salazar is able to return to form and get back to the big leagues. Other than that lone injury-plagued outing in 2019, it’s been five years since he was a meaningful part of a big league staff. For the Yankees, there’s no risk in giving him a minor league deal and seeing if he can recapture some his previous form.