The Yankees’ starting rotation heading into 2021 was full of question marks as three of the projected starter had combined for a total of one inning pitched during the 2020 season. Offseason additions Jameson Taillon and Corey Kluber had battled injuries during the 2020 season, but Domingo Germán saw his initial half season suspension for domestic violence turn into a full season banishment as the season was shortened due to the COVID pandemic. While he was able to log some innings pitching in the Dominican Winter League, the resulting 7.16 ERA created as many questions as answers heading into spring training.
2021 Statistics: 22 games, 98.1 IP, 4.58 ERA, 4.31 FIP, 4.27 xFIP, 8.97 K/9, 2.47 BB/9, 1.3 fWAR
2021 Contract Status: First year arbitration eligible, one minor league option
Entering spring training it was not certain that Germán would have a spot in the Yankees rotation. Gerrit Cole and Jordan Montgomery were almost certain to be joined by Kluber and Taillon, leaving just one spot in the team’s starting five open to competition. While Germán had a solid case for the role, young pitchers such as Michael King, Deivi García and Clarke Schmidt had also positioned themselves with a shot if they put together a strong spring. With a spot in the rotation on the line, Germán pitched very well giving up just two runs in 13 innings and showing the Yankees what they wanted to see in order for him to break camp with the team.
Out of the gate though, Germán struggled — he gave up seven earned runs in his first seven innings pitched against division rivals Toronto and Tampa Bay. Following this slow start, the Yankees optioned Germán to the alternate training site that was operating at the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Scranton back in April. He would remain there for 11 days before returning to the Yankees and going on his best run of the season.
After being recalled from the alternate training site, German pitched to a 2.35 ERA, while holding opponents to a .195 batting average over his next nine games. The Yankees won seven of those games even as they struggled to keep up with the leaders in the American League East during the early part of the season.
Following that stretch, Germán struggled as a starter and found himself pitching out of the bullpen at times in early July. After returning to the rotation, Germán’s late season highlight was carrying a no-hitter into the eighth inning on July 25th against Boston. He was in full control of a talented Boston lineup that day but unfortunately, the Yankees bullpen quickly imploded after his departure resulting in a crushing loss.
A trip to the injured list with shoulder inflammation sidelined Germán for all of August and September, and he returned for just 1.1 innings of relief against Tampa Bay on October 1st. At season’s end, Germán’s metrics are a mixed bag — he was one of the best pitchers in baseball at getting players to chase pitches out of the strike zone, but he was generally in the middle of the pack when it came to his various expected stats. Batters were also able to square him up off the bat and generate well above average exit velocities.
The 29-year-old right-hander is under team control, but will be entering arbitration this season. He has not displayed the durability of an inning-eating starter, but has shown that he can be an effective pitcher for significant stretches of time. MLB Trade Rumors projects Germán to make $2.1 million in arbitration, which is very manageable for a pitcher who has registered 1.3 and 1.9 fWAR over his last two full seasons. Germán’s ability to work in the rotation or out of the bullpen if needed also gives the Yankees the flexibility to move him where he is most needed during the course of a long season.
Domingo Germán entered the 2021 season with a lot of questions surrounding his ability to help the Yankees on the field. He was outstanding for the team for nine starts early on as they searched for answers, but was unable to maintain that pace for the entire season. Germán’s 2021 campaign was solid but not spectacular and there will still be questions heading into 2022 about just what he can be expected to do over the course of a full season.