The New York Yankees certainly have their pitching problems to solve, but it could get even worse going forward; Luis Severino might not be a New York Yankee after the 2022 season. While they are trying to solve this year’s loss of Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and J. A. Happ, they might want to consider future losses as well. Severino should be back with the team about halfway through the 2021 season. When he returns, the Yankees have no way of knowing what kind of pitcher he will be after having Tommy John Surgery.
Severino, who was limited to three regular-season appearances in 2019, had dealt with forearm soreness dating back to October when he made a pair of postseason starts for the Yankees. During spring training, the Yankees shut him down; after consultation with team doctors, it was determined that he would need surgery.Â At the time, Severino issued this statement:
“After much consideration, as well as consultation with the Yankees organization, my family, and my representatives, I have elected to adhere to the advice of the medical professionals and undergo surgery to repair my injured elbow. I am extremely disappointed that I will not be able to put on a Yankees uniform and compete with my teammates this year, but I promise that I will be working tirelessly during this process to come back stronger than ever to make the greatest fans in baseball proud. Thank you to everyone that has reached out during this tough time. My family and I deeply appreciate the kind words and well wishes we have received. Through the long road ahead your continued support means the world to me. I will be back on the mound soon to help bring a championship back to the Bronx!”
The surgery went well as expected; they also removed a bone spur from his elbow. Most pitchers who endure the surgery go through a rehab period of a year to a year and a half. When they return to their teams, some pitch even better than they did before the surgery. But some don’t really come back to form for a full season, and even fewer never return to the pitcher they once were.
The bottom line here is that when he returns to the team if he can by the All-Star break, the New York Yankees really don’t know what to expect. They also don’t know what to expect from Domingo German, who hasn’t pitched a live game for over a year. German’s situation is different than Severino; if German returns to his best 2019 form, the Yankees will have a quality pitcher that will earn only $575 K and is under Yankee control until 2025.
Why is the loss of Severino an important consideration for the New York Yankees?
Severino is guaranteed to be a Yankee through 2022 (he has a $15 million team option for 2023 that New York will surely decline if he isnâ€™t back to form) and, entering his age-27 season, he doesnâ€™t have much time to prove himself and meet those high expectations. When selecting pitching help this upcoming season, they don’t want to set themselves up for the same situation they have this offseason with the loss of several pitchers at the end of the 2022 season. If they give an unnamed pitcher and Masahiro Tanaka a two-year deal, and if Severino becomes a free agent, the Yankees will again find themselves trying to solve a three pitcher loss.
With Luis Severino being only 27 and if here returns to the form the Yankees hope for, he could be an essential part of Yankee pitching for the next decade.Â Let’s look at how Severino got started and how important he is to the New York Yankees.
Yankee scouts in the Dominican Republic, took notice of Severino and invited him to the Yankee training academy. The Yankee Academy is a state of the art training facility in Boca Chica, the Dominican Republic. When he was just seventeen, the Yankees signed him as an international free agent. He was offered a signing bonus of $225k, which the Colorado Rockies matched, but Severino wanted to pitch for his childhood favorite Yankees. When he was scouted, he could throw a fastball in the low 90â€™s. He made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League for the Yankees, where he went 4-2 with an ERA of 1.68 in fourteen games. He stayed in the Dominican League until 2013, when the Yankees promoted him to the Charleston River Dogs. During his time with the Dogs, Severino gained strength and increased his fastball to the high nineties; he finished his first season with the River Dogs going again 4-2, this time in ten games with an ERA of 2.45.
Fast forward to the 2018 season. In the first half of the 2018 season, he recorded 14 wins before the All-Star Game, the first Pitcher to that since 1969, when Mel Stottlemyre did it. He was again selected to pitch in the All-Star game. Severino started the AL Wild Card game against the Oakland Athletics in a game the Yankees won 7-2. Severino finished the season 19-8 with an ERA of 3.39. He led all major league pitchers with an average fastball velocity of 97.6 miles per hour for the second consecutive year. At the end of the season, Severino signed a $40 million contract for four years with a Yankee option for a fifth year. That contract ends with the 2022 season.
After the Yankees acquired one of the best pitchers in baseball, Gerrit Cole, in the offseason last year, they counted on a healthy #2 ace in Severino. If Severino does turn out to be that pitcher when he returns this coming season, they are not going to want to lose him again to free agency. However, the Yankees need to prepare for that now so that their pitching is not in disarray again. Any pitcher they sign during this offseason should be either a one-year short gap pitcher like Charlie Morton or a pitcher they hope to have for at least three years like Trevor Bauer or a similar aged Jake Odorizzi, both are now 29. Unfortunately, free-agent pitchers are seldom young.