The season hasn’t even started yet and the injuries are already piling up in the Yankees’ rotation. First, the team announced that southpaw James Paxton would miss between three and four months with a back injury. And now, homegrown ace Luis Severino was scratched from a scheduled bullpen session on Thursday due to right forearm soreness.
The development is especially concerning given that the right-hander only pitched 12 innings during the 2019 regular season with arm issues. That time, the affected zones were his lat and his shoulder. Now, it’s the elbow.
According to manager Aaron Boone, this forearm issue goes back to Severino’s ALCS Game Threestart against the Astros. It’s unclear why the injury wasn’t addressed or reported at the time.
Severino has been shut down from throwing and will see team physician Dr. Chris Ahmad on Friday. According to Bryan Hoch, the Yankees’ starter has a loose body in his right elbow. Per Lindsey Adler of The Ahletic, Cashman said that the plan is for Severino to take anti-inflammatories and then meet with the doctor.
For reference, Nate Eovaldi had the same thing last year with the Boston Red Sox. He underwent arthroscopic surgery and missed nearly three months of game action.
Injuries are testing the Yankees’ depth
If Severino is going to miss a few months of action again, the Yankees are in trouble. They would be down Paxton and Severino to start the season, and their absences could mean that more spots need to be filled on the team’s depth chart.
Right now, Gerrit Cole, Masahiro Tanaka and J.A. Happ are in the rotation. Left-hander Jordan Montgomery looks like a sure bet to enter the rotation, which is good since he has lost virtually two years because of elbow surgery. He is now ready to show that his 2017 breakout wasn’t a fluke.
How about the fifth-starter spot? How about the overall depth of the rotation? If there is a lesson to be learned after the Severino news is that the Yankees should still be on the lookout for pitching help from outside the organization.
Internal options to fill the fifth starter job are Jonathan Loaisiga, Mike King and Deivi Garcia. However, Loaisiga hasn’t enjoyed much success in the big leagues, and King and Garcia are unproven. Domingo German will miss the first 63 games of the season, and then he will return to shore up the unit. But what should the Yankees do until then?
Guys like Nick Tropeano can now have enhanced opportunities to make the roster if they impress in spring training. Clarke Schmidt isn’t quite ready for the majors yet, but maybe he’ll be an option later in the season.
Signing another potentially high-upside free agent should be a good idea, but the problem is that there aren’t many names out there anymore.
Aaron Sanchez could be an attractive project if he wouldn’t need to miss the start of the season, as well. He is recovering from shoulder surgery. When the other options are Marco Estrada, Andrew Cashner and the like, it may be better to look to the trade market.
Should the Yankees trade for a pitcher?
The Yankees could also explore the option of a trade for a mid-level starter to hold down the fort until Sevy, Paxton and German return. As far as trade pieces go, the Yankees could flip Clint Frazier, Miguel Andujar or prospects. They do have some players to offer.
And, as for trading partners, it’s not clear which teams may be open to trade a starter at this point, with spring training already under way. The Atlanta Braves have some surplus (MLB-ready prospects Touki Toussaint, Bryse Wilson, Kyle Wright and Ian Anderson are currently without a rotation spot in the big league team) but they have injury issues of their own, with Cole Hamels going down recently.
The Detroit Tigers have some arms in their system, and the Los Angeles Dodgers have depth following the failed Ross Stripling deal. Who knows? Maybe the Yankees can surprise us with a late-offseason deal.
The point is that, given Severino and Paxton’s injuries and German’s suspension, more quality arms are needed. The Yankees may need to go to the market again.