New York Yankees News/Rumors: No season? Yankees may have only two pitchers, we explore that

William Parlee
New York Yankees, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka
Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, New York Yankees

If there is no New York Yankees baseball this season caused by the dread coronavirus, the Yankees may find themselves with only two pitchers.  Playing the devil’s advocate, this not only could happen but will happen.  At present, it looks like there will be some type of baseball season.  When it starts and how long it will last at this point is still a mystery.  But if there is another spike in the virus, it could cause the cancelation of the entire baseball season.

At the beginning of spring training, the Yankees appeared to be in a perfect situation to start the season with a strong pitching rotation of Cole, Severino, Tanaka, Montgomery, and Happ.  But that was turned on its head by injury and the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Whatever happens, the New York Yankees will have only two pitchers for sure to start the 2021 season.  Newly acquired Gerrit Cole, who the Yankees went after the big prize signing him to a 9 year $324 million contract. The other pitcher is the relatively untested Jordan Montgomery, who is projected to be the number 4 starter this season.

Here’s the situation.  Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has made a ruling that whether there is a season or not, all players that were due to reach free agency at the end of the 2020 season will be credited with a season played.  For New York Yankees, that means that Masahiro Tanaka, a dependable mainstay of the Yankee rotation, will become a free agent when the season ends.  Along with Tanaka, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ may find themselves on the open market as well.

The difference in the “may” and will in the last statement really depends on the Yankees.  If the managing partner Hal Steinbrenner’s trend to not offer extensions and letting players become free agents before dealing with them, the Yankees may be looking for new pitchers.  An example of that is that the Yankees lost Austin Romine, Didi Gregorius, Encarnacion, and Maybin. It is quite likely that ace Luis Severino that just had Tommy John surgery will be available closer to the All-Star break during 2021 than at the beginning of the season.

Here are the considerations that the New York Yankees will have to make.  Tanaka will be 32 years old this November.  Although he has been a dependable pitcher of the last six years, in the previous two he has had a less than desirable ERA.  He also has been prone to giving up the long ball. Also, a consideration is that for years he has been playing with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament.  Similar concerns will affect James Paxton, who has not had the best injury history.  He also will be 32 in November and just underwent back surgery.  J.A Happ is a wild card in the situation.  When acquired from the Blue Jays in 2018, he was lights out with a 7-0 record.  But 2019 was a very different story.  He was 12-8 with a 4.91 ERA.

The New York Yankees do have some depth in minor leagues that may be considered for a major league stint but are not quite ready.  Heading that group is Jonathan Loaisgia, Clarke Shmidt, Michael King, and Dievi Garcia. The Yankees may find themselves looking to the free-agent market to put together a formidable starting rotation.

The Yankees may take another look at Marcus Stroman, who signed a one year deal with the Mets.  Trevor Bauer of the Reds, Robbie Ray of the Diamondbacks, Jose Quintana of the Cubs and the Ranger’s  Cory Kluber who has a club option, and Jake Arrieta who has his option with the Phillies.  This writer’s guess is that the New York Yankees will build a new pitching rotation around Gerrit Cole.  That rotation could look like Cole, Montgomery, Paxton, and either J.A. Happ, Jonathan Loaisiga, or Masahiro Tanaka.

It is very early to look at the 2021 season when we don’t even know if there will be a 2020 baseball season.  But there is no question that the Yankees will have some big decisions to make over the 2020 postseason that will likely see the Yankees reach out to free agency to acquire at least one veteran pitcher. If there is a season this year, J.A. Happ and Masahiro Tanaka will surely be wanting to show the Yankees why they should be kept or increase their values for when they reach free agency at the end of the year.