A huge blow to the Yankees’ projected rotation, as the injury that had Luis Severino down this spring is going to require Tommy John surgery. The dreaded forearm soreness, man. It makes you nervous every time, and this is why.
The Yankees are already without James Paxton for a big chunk of the start of the season, and although they do have good pitching depth, you wonder at what point they’d make a call on seeking out a veteran addition on a short-term deal. When you commit $300+ million to Gerrit Cole in free agency, you are declaring that you cannot waste any of the early seasons on that deal (and you’re already gonna be over the luxury tax this year anyway), so being a little extra aggressive on a short-term addition would make a lot of sense to me.
(We previously discussed the Severino injury and whether the Yankees could look to the Cubs, who are still projected to be over the luxury tax despite an offseason clearly designed to get under it.)
Local pieces have already popped up about the Yankees seeking arms in trade, but publicly, the Yankees are saying what you’d expect them to say:
Following the Severino news, Brian Cashman said that he expects to go from within:
"You rely on your depth. 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."
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) February 25, 2020
What Cashman is really saying there is that, when you come up with a huge injury in Spring Training, and every team knows exactly what I wrote above, then they’re really going to try to bend you over a barrel in a trade. Acquiescing to that kind of trade is not really Cashman’s style, so I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see them hold out for Paxton’s return in maybe late-May, and see where things stand in June and July.
But here’s a reality that they’ve got to face. The Severino injury is a significant mathematical ding to the season they were projected to have, particularly in their chances to win the AL East:
Luis Severino (ZiPS was already down to 120 innings in the sims) for the season drops Yankees Div%/Play%/WSWin% from 82%/98%/18% to 69%/93%/14%.
Rays go from 15/72/5.6 to 25/73/6.7.
Red Sox go from 2.6/29/1.6 to 5.2/31/1.9
— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) February 25, 2020
Hey, an on-paper 69% chance is still really nice, but it’s a far cry from 82% because of a single injury.
Free agency right now offers low-upside fliers like Collin McHugh, Andrew Cashner, and Jason Vargas, so it’s the trade market or bust if the Yankees actually want to add a sure-fire starter.
If the Cubs were willing to part with some of their own depth, then you’d probably see them as an ideal trade partner for the Yankees precisely because the Cubs wouldn’t necessarily be aiming to get an obscene return for a guy like Jose Quintana or a guy like Tyler Chatwood. Instead, they’d be looking to do what they have so far failed to do all offseason: set themselves up to comfortably be under the luxury tax this year.
I do think you could debate whether it’s worth the Cubs risking their own pitching situation when they have plausible injury risks in an older rotation, and although they have an improving pitching group in the minors, I’m not sure we can say for sure that they could easily absorb a string of several injuries in April. Of course, as we know, by not making a trade this Spring, the Cubs are taking a huge risk of their own: namely, that they are competitive in June and July, but still a bit over the luxury tax, forcing them to either sell pieces *while* competitive just to get under the tax, or risk staying over the tax all year … which means no big spending again next offseason, AND it means they did nothing to improve this year’s team in the first place.
I think this remains something worth keeping in the back of your mind, because Cashman’s right – there isn’t much of a trade market this time of year for rental starting pitchers. And yet the Cubs could conceivably be a two-sided fit.