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The Yankees can’t let injury returns replace deadline trades

No, getting Luis Severino, Dellin Betances and Giancarlo Stanton back is not the same as a trade.

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The Yankees have performed admirably while some of their best players have been injured. Fortunately, they’re performing even better with some of the stars back – the returns of Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius and Domingo German have boosted the team in a big way. More help is expected on the way soon, too – Dellin Betances is “getting close” to a return, and Luis Severino and Giancarlo Stanton are slowly progressing.

However, a recent quote from CC Sabathia about their prospective returns stood out a little bit:

“It would be like making a big trade.”

This is somewhat true on a surface level. A trade involves adding the services of a player who hasn’t been on the team. Severino, Betances and Stanton have not been providing any services to the team this year. Their presence will help the team reach its full potential. From a certain point of view, it makes sense.

However, if this year has taught us anything, it’s that more depth is never a bad thing. How many times have Stanton, Severino, Betances or countless others (Miguel Andujar, Troy Tulowitzki, Jacoby Ellsbury, etc.) suffered setbacks that have cost them significant chunks of the season after they looked to be on the mend? The risk of re-injury is inherently higher when a player first returns from the injured list, then subsides over time. Given these players’ injury histories, it would not be a good idea to simply bank on their returns as the sole additions this trade deadline.

When projecting the team’s postseason rotation, there are some holes. Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton are definitely getting postseason starts. J.A. Happ and CC Sabathia are around as veteran options, but ones the team would probably prefer as insurance at this point. Domingo German could run into an innings limit and might help out in the bullpen during the playoffs.

There are definitely two spots available in the postseason rotation. The hope is that one will go to Severino. However, that’s not a guarantee. If he (or one of the notoriously injury-prone Tanaka or Paxton) goes down, they’ll be in big trouble. The less postseason innings that go to Happ and Sabathia, the better if the team is serious about winning the championship.

Thus, the team shouldn’t hesitate at acquiring a starter. They’ve given every indication that they’re scouring the market, but who the club gets remains to be seen. Regardless, the addition of Severino, which may not even happen, should not be viewed as the rotation’s saving grace – instead, it’s more of a bonus than anything.

The same rules apply for Betances and the bullpen. Believe it or not, the super-bullpen could probably use one more piece. The top relievers are overworked, and the middle relievers are unreliable. Getting Betances back would be a huge addition.

However, we can’t really just assume that he’s going to come back fully healthy and at full strength. When his shoulder injury first cropped up in March, we all thought he’d be back in a month or so. Instead, it’s July and he hasn’t pitched.

I have no doubts that a healthy Betances or a healthy Severino would make the Yankees better. The problem is that I have doubts that we’ll ever get a healthy Betances or Severino this year. Keep in mind, they haven’t pitched in over four or five months – they’ll need to basically go through spring training again before they’re 100 percent.

I know you can’t have everybody on your team, but imagine a version of the Yankees where they trade for the starter and reliever they need and then add on Severino and Betances and become even more unstoppable. After all, injuries pop up and championship teams always need depth. It’s certainly better than the version that involves them staying pat for injured players that never come back.

The Yankees have to be careful this trade deadline season not to fall into the trap that their injured stars will absolutely come back at full strength and call them a “trade deadline acquisition.” Getting injured stars back and acquiring external talent are two different things that this team needs equally. It wouldn’t be wise to just do one thing and ignore the other.

Hopefully Severino, Betances and Stanton will come back soon. In the meantime, the Yankees can’t pass on adding talent from outside the organization because of the slim, outside chance that everyone gets perfectly healthy at the right time.