The Yankees’ rotation took a beating Tuesday with the loss of ace-caliber right-hander Luis Severino, who will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the entire season. This will essentially end up as the second straight lost year for Severino, who starred from 2017-18 before tossing just 12 innings last season on account of shoulder and lat injuries. The Yankees did just fine in Severino’s absence in 2019, winning 103 games and the AL East title, but the latest development on the 26-year-old is no doubt horrible news for the club. That’s especially true when considering the Yankees will open 2020 without left-hander James Paxton, either their third- or fourth-best starter, as he’ll be out until sometime in May or June after undergoing a back procedure three weeks ago.
In an ideal world, the Yankees would have began the year with Severino, Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka and J.A. Happ complementing Gerrit Cole. But they’re now left to choose from some combination of Jordan Montgomery, Jonathan Loaisiga, Deivi Garcia, Luis Cessa, Mike King, Chad Bettis and Nick Tropeano to fill out their rotation. That’s obviously assuming the Yankees stay in-house to address their issues. Free agency’s just about empty at this point, as general manager Brian Cashman suggested Tuesday when he said, “The winter marketplace this time of year, it doesn’t exist.” Finding a solution via trade at this juncture doesn’t seem much more likely, considering Cashman indicated he expects to rely on internal options to replace Severino and Paxton, but the Yankees are better off trying that route if they want to make a high-upside play before the season.
Admittedly, most (or all) of the below names probably aren’t available at the moment. Nevertheless, let’s explore some enticing starters the Yankees could potentially acquire in the coming weeks or at least consider taking a look at around the July trade deadline…
- Jon Gray, RHP, Rockies: Colorado’s of the belief (delusion?) that it’s going to push for a playoff spot this season, making it unlikely Gray will go anywhere before then. But if the team flounders over the first few months of the campaign, he’s a candidate to end up on his way out. The 28-year-old has plenty of value as someone with two seasons of control left, not to mention an ultra-affordable $5.6MM salary in 2020. Gray averaged 96 mph on his fastball last year and notched a 3.84 ERA/4.06 FIP with 9.0 K/9, 3.36 BB/9 and a 50.4 percent groundball rate over 150 innings.
- Chris Archer, RHP, Pirates: Pittsburgh probably won’t win anything this year or next (Archer’s last two seasons of control), so it would make sense to listen to offers. However, the team may prefer to keep the 31-year-old for now in hopes that he rebuilds his value after a nightmarish season and a half in its uniform. Archer turned in an awful 5.19 ERA/5.02 FIP with a career-worst 4.14 BB/9 in 119 2/3 innings last year. On the bright side, he fanned almost 11 hitters per nine, continued to average around 94 mph on his fastball and was much more effective in the second half of the season. And for what it’s worth, Archer has shown he can flourish in the Yankees’ division, the AL East, where he pitched from 2012-18 with the Rays.
- Matthew Boyd, LHP, Tigers: Boyd has been a popular name in the rumor mill for quite some time, but the Tigers haven’t traded him because they’ve apparently placed an exorbitant asking price on the southpaw. That’s understandable with Boyd under control through 2022 and due a reasonable $5.3MM this season. At the same time, they seemingly haven’t worked to extend Boyd, so perhaps a trade will come together sometime this year. All that said, preventing runs has never been Boyd’s strongest suit. He posted a sterling 11.56 K/9 with a 2.43 BB/9 a season ago, but he still ran up a 4.56 ERA/4.32 FIP and continued a trend of logging low groundball percentages (35.6).
- Caleb Smith, LHP, Marlins: Smith was already a Yankee once, but they traded him to the Marlins in a 2017 deal that netted them the aforementioned King. Although Smith was unproven at the time, he has turned into a decent piece for Miami. Dating back to 2018, Smith has pitched to a 4.41 ERA/4.73 FIP with 9.99 K/9, 3.63 BB/9 and an unsightly 26 percent grounder rate. Those certainly aren’t great numbers, though the fact that he has four years of control (including one more pre-arbitration season) helps make him pretty valuable. While the Marlins are still a ways from competing for a playoff spot, they’ve not shown a willingness to trade the 28-year-old Smith thus far.
- Yu Darvish, RHP, Cubs: The Cubs were supposed to shake things up this offseason, partly in an effort to cut payroll, but they haven’t made any substantial trades yet. Getting rid of the four years and $81MM left on Darvish’s contract would help them duck the dreaded luxury tax, and there has been some interest around the league in the 33-year-old since last season ended. The Yankees were rumored to be among the teams in on Darvish when he was a free agent after 2017, but that doesn’t mean they’d want him now. Moreover, Darvish has a full no-trade clause that he doesn’t intend to waive. That NTC will become a 12-teamer sometime during the year, though, so he won’t have total say on his future for much longer.
- Jose Quintana, LHP, Cubs: As with Darvish, moving Quintana would aid the Cubs in avoiding the tax, though it would also weaken their chances of competing in 2020. Quintana’s due $10.5MM this season, his last year of team control. The Yankees are familiar with Quintana, who belongs in the team’s “ones who got away” pile. He pitched in the Yankees’ minor league system several years back before blossoming into a quality starter with both Chicago teams.
Royals lefty Danny Duffy and Giants righties Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto are among other veterans who may be attainable via trade, but there’s a good case the Yankees would be better off relying on internal arms than pushing for either. Even most of the other names listed come with obvious flaws, so it would be reasonable if Cashman would rather see what he has in the organization for now before doing anything drastic in an effort to make up for the losses of Severino and Paxton. Remember, along with Paxton, the Yankees should get suspended righty Domingo German by the summertime, leaving them with a couple in-house reinforcements. But if the Yankees’ starting staff falls short leading up the deadline, it figures to be a key area of focus for the Cashman-led World Series hopefuls, and any of the above names may wind up on their radar.