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The Yankees have a big decision to make about their starting rotation

The Yankees have a few different options to replace their injured ace. Which direction should they choose?

MLB: Chicago White Sox at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Immediately after the Yankees’ 2018 season ended on their home turf at the hands of the Red Sox, the team began talking about the offseason. Attention to the starting rotation, Brian Cashman said, would be a priority.

He quickly re-signed team leader CC Sabathia to a team-friendly, one-year contract, and then deftly executed a trade to acquire James Paxton. Cashman also re-upped J.A. Happ, who had been lights-out for the Bombers after coming over from Toronto at the trade deadline. Cash punctuated his efforts by extending staff ace Luis Severino on a deal that covers all his arbitration years and also gives the Yankees the option to buy out what is slated to be his first year of free agency.

Cashman did a great job tying down young, established talent for multiple years, while also mixing in a pair of veterans to ensure a win-now rotation. On paper, the Yankees appeared headed into the 2019 season with Masahiro Tanaka, Severino, Sabathia, Happ, and Paxton forming the five-man starting staff, with Luis Cessa, Domingo German, and the organization’s current top pitching prospect Jonathan Loaisiga serving as depth. Cashman later inked former standout starter Gio Gonzalez to a minor-league deal to augment the team’s depth chart.

Unfortunately, the train went off the rails before the season even started. Severino was scratched on the day of his first Grapefruit League start, and remained sidelined into the regular season. A setback forced the Yankees to shut Severino down completely for an additional six weeks, meaning he won’t return to big-league action until late June at the earliest.

Additionally, neither Paxton nor Tanaka have ever made it through a season without hitting the injured list. While Tanaka has pitched well, Paxton and Happ have struggled so far. In some ways, dire concerns about the rotation linger. The Yankees have two choices to address it, however, with in-house or external options.

As for the internal options, concerns existed with Sabathia as well, between his offseason angioplasty and how he pitches with no cartilage in one knee. Although he joined the rotation late, CC certainly announced his presence with authority, as he hurled five scoreless frames in his 2019 debut this past Saturday. The left-hander set the tone this weekend in a game that snapped the team’s four-game losing streak.

Domingo German has also stepped up for the Yankees so far this season. He looks like a different pitcher than in years past. He’s 3-0 in three appearances, and boasts a 1.38 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, and 2.61 FIP across 13 innings. In addition to winning both his starts, German also threw two perfect frames in relief of Sabathia on Saturday to earn the victory and help the struggling Yankees stop their losing skid. You could say this is all the Yankees need to stop the bleeding.

I’m strongly in favor of keeping German in the rotation, but I also think the Yankees should sign Dallas Keuchel. I made the case here, so I won’t belabor the point. The bottom line is this: When a team has a chance to add a former Cy Young winner to a staff on what would likely be a short-term deal, they should take it. I know there are concerns about whether Keuchel can still perform at the same high level that he has in the past. But to me, the move is worth the risk. If the playoffs started tomorrow, I would much prefer having Keuchel in the Yankees rotation, over him wearing a Red Sox or Astros uniform and pitching for the opposition.

The Yankees have a big decision to make about their starting rotation. They could stick with in-house options, but they may be best served pursuing free agent help. There should be a sense of urgency, though, because it will be too late once Keuchel signs somewhere else.