There is no denying that Luis Severino and Nestor Cortes have played exceedingly well for the Yankees. It is not an exaggeration to say that they have been instrumental to the success that they have had this year. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that neither pitcher is likely to pitch with the kind of free leash that will be allowed to the likes of Gerrit Cole and Jordan Montgomery, who both had full 2022 campaigns in the rotation.
Innings limits are designed to protect pitchers from overextending themselves by putting a cap on the the total number of innings that these players can pitch, based upon how much they have pitched in the previous seasons. Teams generally do not want to damage pitchers by overusing them, and innings limits should help ameliorate this issue. It is not clear where or whether there are any limits on Cortes or Severino, but logic dictates that there probably exists an upper limit on the total number of innings that the Yankees would be willing to allow them to pitch.
In the case of Severino, the inning limitation stems from his recovery from Tommy John surgery. After recovering, he only pitched 16.2 inning across the minors and major leagues during the 2021 season. At 84 innings pitched this year, the Yankees are probably already pushing what they would be comfortable with. Cortes has a longer leash due to the fact that between Triple-A and the majors, he tossed 108 frames last season (a figure that doesn’t include any work at spring training or the April alternate site). Given how well he has thrown the ball, he has already pitched 88.2 innings. Cortes probably then has a higher innings limit, but probably not enough to allow him to pitch 200 innings this year. This begs the question: what are the Yankees’ options to continue their pitching success?
The Yankees could always look outside the organization as the trade deadline approaches, but they have a number of internal options who could provide length if they decide to move Severino and Cortes into more of an opener or bullpen role. Let’s take a look at some of those pitchers.
JP Sears has provided superb pitching in relief and spot starts. It would make a ton of sense to give him more opportunity to prove that his pitching is legit. Over 15.1 innings pitched, he has allowed only one earned run, good for a minuscule 0.59 ERA. That is spectacular.
Unfortunately, some of the peripherals are not quite as high on Sears as his performance would suggest. One particularly revealing metric is an xERA at 3.43, which is well above his actual ERA at 0.59. This might suggest that he has been the beneficiary of some luck. As a result, it might behoove the Yankees to be cautious about employing him full time as a starter.
Clarke Schmidt has had a somewhat unfortunate season — at least from the perspective of someone who wants to start a game every five days. When he has been in the big leagues, he has done nothing except perform at a high level. He has not been perfect, but a 3.00 ERA over 24.0 innings is not too shabby. More importantly, Schmidt’s xERA sits at a very palatable 3.24. This is even better than Sears’ xERA, indicating that Schmidt might be a great option to fill in a bulk inning or even starter role.
It would make sense then that the Yankees have been using him as a starter in the minor leagues, where he’s posted modest results while stretching out. The latter part is still a work in progress, as while he tossed one-hit, one-run ball in his last outing on July 6th, he only threw four innings and 52 pitches. But as a former first-round pick, Schmidt has the highest ceiling of this trio and could be worth the wait.
Germán has not pitched in the big leagues this year. He started the season on the 60-day injured list with shoulder impingement syndrome in his throwing arm. He has since started to make appearances in the minor leagues to rehab from his injury. During those rehab starts, he has looked pretty sharp.
Across four starts and 14.1 innings, at three different levels, he has posted a 0.63 ERA with 10 strikeouts and no walks. Those are excellent numbers, but they come with the caveat that it’s a small sample size and with minor league hitters (10.1 innings of which came against Double-A or lower competition). However, Germán has a history at the major league level, even if that has only resulted in a 4.54 ERA over 341.1 innings across four seasons. He represents a known commodity to the team, but one who has proven to be a good enough innings eater in the past to get a role doing something similar.
Severino and Cortes are probably going to have restrictions on how much they can be used, and there needs to be options to fill the important innings that they have been pitching. In the end, the Yankees have multiple options on their 40 man roster who could very easily support the big league staff with upcoming inning limitations. Sears and Schmidt offer tantalizing potential while Germán offers a known commodity who can fill innings in the big league. Any of these options, or getting another starter via trade, could do very well.