Yankees' Injury Woes Put Rotation in Awkward Spot

Ryan Phillips
Luis Severino pitches for the New York Yankees against the Houston Astros
Luis Severino pitches for the New York Yankees against the Houston Astros / Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
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New York Yankees pitcher Luis Severino is headed for Tommy John surgery after suffering a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament. While the Yankees have a new ace and some good options behind him, Severino's injury is still a big blow to the team's rotation.

When the Yankees signed Gerrit Cole this offseason, they envisioned a scenario where everyone else would slot down in the rotation, and therefore be better positioned against opposing teams. Cole took the mantle of the No. 1 starter and ace, which meant Severino, James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka could slide to the next three spots. All of those guys would theoretically match up well against any team's second through fourth starters. J.A. Happ was likely to open as the team's fifth starter.

Severino's injury blows that plan up.

The 26-year-old Severino was last fully healthy in 2018 and he was brilliant. He went 19-8 with a 3.39 ERA, a 1.14 WHIP and 220 strikeouts in 191.1 innings. But after signing a four-year, $40 million deal in February of 2019, he made just two starts last season. Rotator cuff and a lat strain kept him out for most of the season. Now he'll miss all of 2020 and likely the beginning of the 2021 season.

If that wasn't enough, Paxton is currently recovering from having a cyst removed from his back. He's likely sidelined until sometime in April. While that's not terrible, it still puts the Yankees in a spot where they'll have to get creative.

Tanaka wasn't great in 2019, finishing 11-9 with a 4.45 ERA, a 1.24 WHIP and served up 28 home runs in 182 innings. The 31-year-old will have to be better, as he'll likely open the season as the team's No. 2 starter. After him, the Yankees will have to find some guys to fill out the back-end of the rotation.

Happ had a down year in 2019 as well, with a 4.91 ERA and 34 home runs allowed in 161.1 innings. Jordan Montgomery is another option, but he will be in his first full season back after Tommy John surgery, so it's anyone's guess how he'll fare. Then there's Domingo German, who will miss the first 63 games of the 2020 season after being suspended for domestic violence.

The Yankees enter 2020 with tremendous offensive firepower, a good bullpen and a legit ace in Cole. The starting rotation after Cole is an issue that just got more serious with Severino out for the year. It will be fascinating to see how general manager Brian Cashman proceeds.

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