The New York Yankees starting rotation depth is already being questioned with just three weeks until Opening Day.
Staff ace Luis Severino was shut down for at least two weeks on Tuesday due to rotator cuff inflammation. The 25-year-old began complaining of discomfort prior to his spring-training start against the Atlanta Braves before being evaluated. He is not expected to be available for Opening Day, at least according to manager Aaron Boone. Severino, however, believes he will be back after those two weeks.
It further continues the frustration surrounding the right-hander, who was surely looking at 2019 as an opportunity to bounce back from a miserable second half of last season. After starting 2018 with a 13-2 record and a minuscule 1.98 ERA, Severino imploded down the stretch, going 6-6 with a 5.67 ERA.
While there is no true timetable for his return as of yet, his unavailability provides some nervy moments for the Yankees. The starting rotation was the Achilles Heel of a 100-win team last year and management made a minimal splash to try and improve it toward a top-tier standing.
General manager Brian Cashman pulled off a trade for Seattle Mariners ace James Paxton, but there are some understandable concerns surrounding the southpaw’s game. The 30-year-old has never pitched more than 160.1 innings in a season, has had issues with wild pitches — which could be magnified with Gary Sanchez behind the plate — and has an alarming fly-ball rate while preparing to start a majority of his games in the hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium.
Paxton was expected to be the No. 2 behind Severino where he’d team up with Masahiro Tanaka, who battled inconsistencies of his own, the re-signed JA Happ, and the veteran CC Sabathia who will be embarking on his farewell tour this season.
It’s not the most imposing rotation, especially when the Boston Red Sox will be rolling out Chris Sale, Davis Price, and Nathan Eovaldi as a top three.
But new concerns about Severino’s health might have prompted the Yankees to delve back into the market for some much-needed rotational insurance.
However, Brian Cashman noted on Wednesday that he will attempt to address the issue in-house.
“What I’ve got is what I’ve got,” he stated.
What he has are options like Domingo German, Luis Cessa, Jonathan Loaisiga, and Chance Adams; arms that don’t necessarily provide a legitimate replacement for an arm like Severino’s.
The notion makes left-handed free agent Dallas Keuchel an attractive name, one which rose to prominence over the past four years with the Houston Astros.
There’s no denying that the 31-year-old has been inconsistent during that stretch. He won the American League Cy Young Award in 2015 by going 20-8 with a 2.48 ERA, only to follow it up with a 9-12 campaign in which he sported a 4.55 ERA. Granted, it was revealed after that 2016 season that he pitched most of the season with shoulder pain. He got back on track two years ago with a 14-5 mark and 2.90 ERA but regressed once again in 2018 when he went 12-11 with a 3.74 ERA.
With the potential of ace-like stuff, the market surrounding Keuchel has been difficult. Most potential suitors aren’t looking to give Keuchel a top-tier contract after the season he just had, especially when the southpaw is looking for a five-year contract.
There is an opportunity for the Yankees to snag the veteran on a budget as we get to crunch time before the start of the regular season. Keuchel has proven that he can perform in the Bronx, sporting a 2.45 regular-season ERA over five-career starts with 35 strikeouts in 33 innings of work.
Signing Keuchel would give the Yankees another top-of-the-rotation option to work with, especially if Severino does miss an extended amount of time. Should the ace return quickly, however, Keuchel’s presence allows the Yankees to flex Sabathia to the bullpen. It’s a move that would give New York’s staff that much more legitimacy and would make them nearly unbeatable if Keuchel can regain his best stuff in 2019.