Entering 2019, things looked lined up for the Yankees, with a loaded roster top to bottom. That loaded roster started taking on water almost immediately, of course, as injuries took an ax to their best-laid plans. Perhaps the biggest development of spring training was Luis Severino’s shoulder injury, which landed him on the IL entering the season.
Severino would eventually hit the 60-day IL, and wouldn’t return until September. Yankee fans were crushed. The team’s hopes of putting together a championship-caliber rotation relied heavily on Severino’s capability to be an ace. Simply put, the Yankees without Severino were some fraction of what they could have been all year.
Domingo German did a fine job essentially replacing Severino for much of the season, but the team still wasn’t putting its best foot forward if Severino wasn’t going out there every five days. Severino made five total starts in 2019, including the regular season and playoffs. There was plenty consternation surrounding whether he would pitch up to his ceiling during that short span, given his near six-month absence. In those five starts, Severino pitched 20.1 innings and gave up only four runs. He essentially looked healthy and pitched like his normal self. This is what the Yankees will need in 2020.
The impact of getting their ace back cannot be overstated for the Yankees. When healthy, Severino can put up the kind of season that involves 200 innings pitched, 220-plus strikeouts, and a bucket full of wins. He’s the type of pitcher who let’s a team feel confident that at least once a week, they’ll have put a pitcher on the mound that cannot be beaten on his best nights, someone that will stop the bleeding on losing streaks and keep the ball rolling on winning streaks.
On top of just Severino’s full return, Yankee fans are most likely fantasizing about which free agent pitcher could join Severino and the rest of the Yankees’ pitching staff in 2020. Every year offers a different roster and a different feel. Imagine adding Severino and another big-time arm from the free-agent market to last year’s staff? This team would look and feel a lot different. For the first time since the arrival of the Baby Bombers, the Yankees’ pitching staff could plausibly be the best aspect of this team.
To avoid straying too deep into the hypothetical, though, having a healthy Severino back lengthens the rotation, and relieves a bit of the pressure from the the rest of the pitching staff. James Paxton had to shoulder a heavy burden as the team’s nominal ace down the stretch. He was great at the end of the season, but he could now profile as a tantalizing number-two in the rotation with Severino back on the field. Plus, and perhaps most importantly, Severino should be able to provide length in a way that Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and J.A. Happ struggled to at times. More Severino means less stress for the Yankees’ best relievers, and less will be asked of fringe-of-the-roster pitchers like Chance Adams, Stephen Tarpley, etc.
The biggest addition the Yankees could possibly make this winter probably involves the free-agent market. Beyond that, though, the Yankees’ biggest upgrade heading into 2020 will be the potential for a full season from Severino. Fans should rejoice if that possibility comes to fruition.