The Yankees’ offseason began with the mega-signing of Gerrit Cole to a nine-year deal. Netting Cole obviously was an important move for the franchise and with everything that has unfolded as of late, that signing was crucial. But besides that contract, the only other major league signing the Bombers made was to bring back veteran outfielder Brett Gardner.
In the meantime, Masahiro Tanaka had arthroscopic surgery at the end of October to remove a bone spur in his elbow. James Paxton started feeling recurring back pain in January that never seemed to have gone away. He had surgery to remove a peridiscal cyst in his back and won’t return until a month or two into the season. It didn’t stop there. Luis Severino felt tightness in his throwing arm after pitching Game Three against the Houston Astros in the ALCS. That lingered into the offseason and now he’s done for the year as he’ll undergo Tommy John surgery.
The Yankees knew they had at least three question marks injury-wise in the rotation as they now inch closer towards the regular season. Yet, they virtually did nothing to address it over the winter. New York lost backup catcher Austin Romine in free agency. In response to that, they signed three veteran catchers as reinforcements. It’s a bit puzzling that the team didn’t think they had any pressing need or didn’t display any urgency in signing any other free agent starter to a major league deal.
While Cole’s contract demanded a ton of money, the Yankees still had the option of going out and signing a lower-level free agent starter for a lot less money. Guys like Cole Hamels and Brett Anderson signed one-year deals this offseason, and both posted a WAR higher than two last season. Those are solid back-end options, but now mostly all of their free agent options are gone.
Before the Severino news, J.A. Happ was lined up to be the Yankees fourth starter and Jordan Montgomery their fifth. Monty is coming off of Tommy John surgery and appeared in only four innings last year. It seems as though the Yankees felt confident that they could go into the 2020 season with the rotation that was set after Cole’s signing, but injuries have once more halted their plans.
Many are wondering what the Yanks will do now. Will they try to find a trade partner or rely on their depth? Brian Cashman believes it will be the latter.
“You rely on your depth,” Cashman said. “I wouldn’t expect any domino effect or cause and effect in terms of us being able to go to marketplace. The winter marketplace this time of year, it doesn’t exist.”
The Yankees were able to utilize their depth to their advantage after being mauled by a record amount of injuries last year. However, the team can’t rely on it to play out the way it did again this season. Besides, two key pitchers are down for an extended period of time. It’s much easier to replace a position player than two dominant arms. Gerrit Cole will have added weight on his shoulders as he will be relied upon to carry the starting five for some time. As we head into the upcoming season, it seems as if the rotation could be the team’s biggest weakness once again.