The Yankees enter the year with a rotation that will strike fear in the hearts of every opposing team, boasting ace-like potential out of nearly every rotation member. On the surface, Carlos Rodón coming to the Yanks has shades of the peak spending days of the early 2000s, when the team wasn’t shy about splashing the cash on the marquee free agents, even to fill positions that weren’t necessarily weakness, but there’s a lot of context to add, and in many ways, this signing says a lot about the future of Luis Severino with this ball club.
Severino signed an extension with the New York Yankees ahead of the 2019 season. At the time, it seemed like a great move for the ball club to sign one of the premier young arms in the game to an affordable deal, worth around $56 million and eating up one of his free agent years on a team option. Things immediately turned south, however, and here we are in 2023, on the final season of that contract, still looking for one healthy campaign out of Severino. Fingers are crossed that it will come this year, but nothing is for certain.
By all accounts, Severino looked like his old self in the short time he was back last year and looks poised for a very strong campaign, helping form one of the more fearsome rotations baseball has seen in the last few years. Whether or not they can maintain that status may not be determined by the play on the field so much as the negotiations off of it. Between Gerrit Cole and Rodón, the Yankees have around $60 million committed on a yearly basis to two aces, and a healthy Severino certainly fits in that category.
This is not an argument that Severino would get the same contract these two got in free agency, but even with his injury record, if he builds off his return last season, and goes through a full campaign without any major issues, his earning potential will grow significantly.
Look no further than his new teammate, Rodón. The southpaw was dominant in his last year with the White Sox, but getting shut down late in the year was enough cause for concern that he had to settle for a two-year deal, with a player opt-out. In 2022, Rodón wasn’t exactly Sandy Alcantara eating up innings, but 178 of them at his level were more than enough to convince the Yankees to splash out the cash for the hard-throwing southpaw.
Right now, understanding the risks, the Yankees could afford to offer Severino a reasonable extension, providing some security for the longest-tenured starter on the team. We could argue about the merits of said extension, and one could even point out the last contract handed out to Severino as a quote-unquote mistake, but at the end of the day, the Yankees still get an ace-caliber pitcher for a very reasonable $15 million this season, and they weren’t exactly overpaying for the earlier years when he was on the shelf. Concerns about the payroll constraints that they faced in those years, while first and foremost were largely unwarranted, were also more focused on unloading or waiting out other larger contracts.
If Severino enters the year without an extension it is my belief that he is as good as gone, because if he fulfills his potential, and goes the entire season without any major IL stints, the Yankees won’t look to match what he’ll get on the open market — not with so much money committed to Rodón and Cole. At the same time, it’s an awkward time to talk about an extension as Severino and the front office aren’t exactly on the same page: Severino believed that he could’ve returned from injury sooner than he did at the end of the year, and he was set to participate in the World Baseball Classic before Brian Cashman vetoed that idea.
The fan in me wants to see Severino retained, but the realist thinks that this is his last dance in the Bronx. Hopefully, there’s still time to change course.