This offseason, the Yankees inked two contract extensions in Aaron Hicks and Luis Severino. Hicks’ deal was for 7 years, $70 million and includes a club option for a potential eighth year. Severino signed a 4 year, $40 million deal with a club option for a fifth year. Both deals were positive for both sides. In Severino, the Yankees get a potential ace in his prime for just $10 million. Hicks’ contract was one with some controversy, but to people that understand the game of baseball, a centerfielder of his caliber defensively with potential 30 home run power doesn’t come around every year. He also set career marks in games played, home runs, RBIs, runs and WAR last season. As mentioned before, both deals were fair to each party involved. And then the injury bug struck. First, it was Luis Severino feeling discomfort in his rotator cuff that ultimately led to him being shut down until at least May. Next, the news came in that Aaron Hicks would miss opening day and most likely the opening series for the Yankees. So with two key pieces out to begin the year, where should the Yankees turn? Let’s dive in.
Severino’s absence is not the only injury the Yankees rotation has to deal with. CC Sabathia is also out until at least mid-April, possibly longer. As it looks now, the Yankees rotation consists of Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and JA Happ. The rest of the rotation could consist of a combination of Luis Cessa, Domingo German, Gio Gonzalez, and Jonathan Loaisiga.
Out of those four names, Luis Cessa is the one I want far away from the starting rotation. His career 5-11 record and 4.71 ERA is gross, paired with a perfect 151 hits allowed in 151 major league innings. He is once again having a good Spring Training with a 0.69 (nice) ERA with 13 strikeouts and just one walk in 13 innings pitched. But don’t let that fool you. Luis Cessa is always a trap.
The next guy I don’t want in the starting rotation is Domingo German. I don’t necessarily think the stuff isn’t there for him, because it is, I just see him as better out of the bullpen. Last season, German posted a 6.19 ERA in 14 games started. The promising part was 79 strikeouts to just 26 walks, but he also allowed 47 runs in 68 innings of work. After being moved to the bullpen, German dropped to a 3.12 ERA. Granted, it was just 7 appearances, but German’s stuff plays better in shorter spurts. The Yankees best option, in my opinion, is to keep him in the bullpen. Don’t risk switching up what was working.
This leaves us with Jonathan Loaisiga and Gio Gonzalez. I like the idea of putting one young pitcher and one proven veteran at the bottom. Loaisiga had an up-and-down first season, also battling injuries. He started 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA through 5 starts. He ended a bit rocky, with a 5.11 ERA at the end of the season, highlighted by 6 runs allowed in 1.1 innings pitched in a game against the Twins. Loaisiga finished with 9 starts on the season and missed most of July and all of August with a shoulder issue. The injury history may be a bit of an issue moving forward, and Loaisiga has struggled this spring, but he still has the best potential as a starting pitcher of the young pitchers the Yankees have ready right now. Finally, Gio Gonzalez is an easy pick to fill out the Yankees rotation, if he is ready. Veteran, left, innings eater. Sounds a lot like the fallen CC Sabathia, with less injury concern and a bit younger. Gonzalez had a rocky start with the Nationals but finished strong after being dealt to the Brewers.
To summarize, my makeshift rotation to start the season would be Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, JA Happ, Gio Gonzalez, and Jonathan Loaisiga.
The outfield is much more straightforward. Aaron Hicks is not necessarily replaceable, but it is just one position rather than two like in the rotation. The two guys likely to cycle in are Brett Gardner and Clint Frazier. Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge will be in the lineup every day, but Frazier could also see some time in left field when Stanton is slotted at DH.
In Gardner, the Yankees get a veteran in centerfield with the potential for 3 WAR and some speed. He also provides a veteran presence to the outfield. If he can get back to the on-base numbers of yesteryears, Gardy is a more than formidable replacement. Then there’s the young gun, Clint Frazier. Frazier finally (fingers crossed) seems to have his concussion issues behind him. In his short 54 game career to date, Frazier has slashed .238/.295/.429. Pretty bad. But let’s not forget this guy is only 24 years old and has battled through injury after injury up to this point. It’s been a rough Spring Training for Frazier, but Spring Training means absolutely nothing. Frazier has elite bat speed and the improvement in his eye at the plate was seen before suffering another concussion setback. Yankees fans should still be excited about the prospect of Clint Frazier starting this season at the big league level.