Over the month of August, some fans have been critical of the Yankees for not making a move to acquire a starting pitcher. The Blue Jays got David Price, the Astros acquire Scott Kazmir, the Royals added Johnny Cueto, but the Yankees didn't grab anyone. Instead, they called up a 21-year-old rookie by the name of Luis Severino to keep the team in contention and shore up the rotation. As good as Severino is as a prospect, it would be a lot to ask of him to be a major contributor to a playoff team down the stretch, and yet, he's stepped up–far more than most of those deadline pitchers have. Brian Cashman would agree:
"We have a championship-caliber team when it's playing up to its capabilities and healthy,'' Cashman told The Post. "We didn't want to break the bank for a two-month rental, so we felt that Severino would be just as good as an acquisition. He's out-performed most of the pitchers who have been traded.
"If you look around at the guys who have been moved, this guy has done well so far,'' Cashman added. "The bottom line is that we felt that Severino was somebody who would impact us in a positive way and he has so far.''
It turns out that if you actually look at the numbers, Severino has outperformed a majority of the pitchers who were traded or were thought to be on the market. For those of you still believing the Yankees should have made a move for a starting pitcher, the numbers don't lie and they look pretty definitive so far:
|min 3 GS in August||ERA||FIP||K/9||BB/9||BAA||IP|
It's an admittedly small sample size, but these are the type of numbers we work with in the second half.
The Yankees really dodged some bullets out there. The lower-tiered options like Haren and Latos have been terrible. Pitchers like Kazmir and Wood have had a tough time of things with their new teams, while Mike Leake pitched once and got hurt and Samardzija, who wasn't even traded, has been horrendous in what might be one of the worst walk years in recent times. Hamels has struggled quite a bit since coming over to the Rangers, and while he'll likely rebound, could you imagine the bedlam if the Yankees gave up top talent for that? The only clear upgrades they could have acquired were, of course, David Price and Johnny Cueto, while Tyson Ross has at least been comparable to Severino in some ways.
All three of those pitchers would have been extremely expensive for the Yankees, either in terms of prospects or money. Obviously teams like different players from different organizations for different reasons, but without fully knowing how the Tigers, Reds, or Padres valued the Yankees' system or its prospects, the only way we can compare the trades that took place is to find the most comparable players.
To acquire Price, the Blue Jays had to send Daniel Norris, Jairo Labourt, and Matt Boyd to Detroit. That's two major league-ready pitchers, one of which was their top prospect, and an arm from A-ball. The most comparable deal that I can come up with is Luis Severino as the top major league-ready piece, Bryan Mitchell as the secondary MLB pitcher, and, since the Yankees don't have many healthy pitchers in A-ball, either Brady Lail or Rookie Davis in place of Ian Clarkin
To get Cueto, the Royals had to send Cody Reed, Brandon Finnegan, and John Lamb to Cincinnati. It's hard to find a comp to this trade since injuries kind of took many of New York's pitchers off the trade block. If everyone was healthy, though, the Yankees might have had to surrender Ian Clarkin as the High-A/Double-A talent. While Finnegan has been pitching as a starter in the minors this year, he's failed miserably at it, leaving him looking a lot more like Jacob Lindgren. Lamb was a former top prospect who has seen his value rekindled in the upper minors before finally reaching the majors, making Mitchell a potential fit in his role.
While nothing materialized, the Yankees were looking to acquire both Tyson Ross and Craig Kimbrel from the Padres. In return they might have traded top shortstop prospect Jorge Mateo and taken on most of, if not all of, Jedd Gyorko's $32 million contract through 2019–a player the Yankees don't need with Stephen Drew and Brendan Ryan on the major league team and Rob Refsnyder in the minors. The cost of acquiring Ross to provide roughly the same production as Severino, who is under contract for longer, would not have made much sense. Cashman made a good decision not to go this route.
Giving up Severino for two months of David Price is a real gamble, the Blue Jays felt they had to compete now because they are unlikely to be this good again, but if they fail then they just gave up a heck of a lot of their future for nothing. They Yankees don't play that way. Somehow they've amassed a reputation for trading away their young talent, but Brian Cashman has never really been that guy unless the deal is a no-brainer. Maybe the Cueto deal wouldn't have hurt so bad, but, again, most of their comparable pieces were hurt. The Ross/Kimbrel deal might have made some sense, but we really don't know the full terms of the deal and the Yankees haven't really been hurting for it since. The Yankees might not have gotten the best player, but for what they need now and in the future, they went with the right player.
To throw out a personal anecdote from my own experiences, I used to work for a government contractor. While working on multiple proposals during my time there, I would hear government requirements like "best fit" all the time. Unfortunately, "best fit" almost always came with the tag of "most expensive" and when you're also graded by the agency on how best you can meet their proposed budget, "best fit" wasn't always the best. Instead, our proposal writers would introduce the term "right fit" which would allow us to staff the best potential employee who still fits in the price range that would balance the scales. Sometimes the "right fit" was actually better than the "best fit" because it brought the talent of a top-flight candidate without the price tag of a senior officer. Luis Severino is that right fit. He has top-flight talent, but he's young and lacks much of a resume and didn't cost the Yankees a good portion of their top prospects. It looks like the Yankees took this approach into account–sure, they could go all out for David Price, but is the cost really worth it when the alternative isn't that much off?
Take a look at these pitchers' run support over the first three starts with their new teams. If things were a little more balanced, you better believe the narrative would be a lot different:
|Run Support Average (per start)|
The Yankees have lost all three of Severino's starts, but that's not his fault. Six earned runs allowed and 18 strikeouts in 17 innings should be better than an 0-2 record, but if the team is out of their offensive funk from last week, Severino should start being rewarded for his efforts and before we know it, everyone will forget about David Price and Johnny Cueto being better because we didn't have to surrender prospects to find an impact arm. Brian Cashman believes in the right fit, as should we all.