12:19 pm Sep. 28, 2012
It seems quite possible that Ivan Nova has pitched his last game for the New York Yankees. And it wasn't a good one; Nova and the Yankees lost Thursday night to the Blue Jays, 6-0.
Such a notion would have been unthinkable as recently as July, when Nova looked like a key part of the team's future. But consider what has happened since.
In 11 starts since July 8, Nova posted a 7.05 E.R.A. That lifted his season mark up over five, and takes what would have been a breakthrough season--his strikeout rate improved from a barely passable 5.3 per nine to a stellar 8.1 per nine--and turned it into a question mark.
The Yankees don't have the luxury of waiting around any longer for an answer. The loss last night cut their lead over the Orioles to a single game. Nova would have one more start, staying on turn, next week. But in light of his struggles, Girardi did not commit to giving him that start. It could easily be David Phelps next week.
And it is impossible to imagine Nova in the postseason rotation, barring some kind of plague. CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda will almost certainly be the three postseason starters; Phil Hughes, and likely Phelps, are ahead of Nova on the pecking order, too.
So if this is where Nova's season ends, will the Yankees really enter 2013 depending on Nova to pitch every fifth day? Sabathia will no doubt return, and Kuroda looks like a good bet to be re-signed, too. Add in Hughes, an expected return from Pettitte, and the presence of Phelps, and the Yankees look covered.
They could keep Nova around as long man and rotation insurance, but it is easy to see them convert Nova via trade into addressing another need, such as replacing free agent Nick Swisher in the outfield.
Nova isn't eligible for arbitration until 2014, and would be under a team's control for three years after that. So he'd have value on the trade market.
The Yankees, perpetually in win-now mode, may not be inclined to give him any more time.