There’s a lot of questions surrounding the New York Yankees about the 2021 season, but one may be no bigger than the starting pitching situation. The team has their ace in Gerrit Cole, but the rest of the rotation remains unknown for 2021.
Three of the Yankees usual five starters will be hitting the free-agent market this winter in Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and JA Happ. Luis Severino, sidelined by Tommy John surgery, will reportedly return in June or July. The team also has control of Jordan Montgomery for several more years, a valuable lefty. Additionally, Domingo German is eligible to pitch in 2021 after missing the 2020 season to suspension.
So with all these guys having the potential to return to the rotation in 2021, where does this place Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt?
Well, that depends on what the Yankees do with some of the other guys. With Cole being the only lock in rotation in 2021, they have four spots to fill and a lot of pitchers that want those spots.
Tanaka is reportedly drawing interest to play back in Japan, where he’s likely to get more money. Rumors indicate he’ll be offered 20$-25$ million dollars a year in Japan. Since the team already has a lefty in Montgomery, they may not want to bring back Paxton since he is relatively injury prone. And Happ, he’s a lefty as well, but his velocity is dipping and he’s starting to lose his stuff.
So it’s very possible the Yankees don’t bring back any of these three free-agent pitchers. However, the team seems interested in landing Trevor Bauer in free-agency, a strong contender to be the NL Cy Young award winner this season.
For Garcia and Schmidt to see starts in 2021, the team can only really sign one free-agent, unless they move on from German. With his suspension, rumors indicate the Yankees may get rid of German, even though he’s reinstated for 2021. If they keep German, it would likely put him with Montgomery, Cole, a free-agent, and either Garcia or Schmidt.
The two young arms of Garcia and Schmidt likely will be competing against each other in Spring Training for a spot. The winner gets a rotation spot, the loser goes to the bullpen. Both arms are too valuable to keep in AAA to start the season.
But, when Severino gets healthy, he’ll be placed in the rotation. So someone would have to get moved from the rotation, and that would likely be either Garcia or Schmidt.
On the other hand, if the Yankees sign two free-agents, it’s likely neither Garcia or Schmidt will start games. That’s unless Paxton is among those signed. If they hold on to Paxton, Montgomery risks losing a rotation spot. It’s highly unlikely the team rolls without a lefty starter, but it isn’t unheard of them having multiple lefties.
Regardless of what happens in free agency, it’s highly unlikely Clarke Schmidt or Deivi Garcia spends 2021 in AAA. The two are MLB ready and have endless potential. Garcia proved to the Yankees in 2020 that he deserves a spot in the big-leagues, and Schmidt’s stuff has looked great. He just needs more major league innings.
Even if Garcia and Schmidt aren’t starters in 2021, there should be a spot for them in the Yankee bullpen.