TAMPA — With pitchers and catchers officially kicking off Yankee spring training on Wednesday, it’s time to see the rotation that Brian Cashman put together in action. On paper, the Yankees’ GM seemingly upgraded the starting corps with the addition of James Paxton and dealing struggling starter Sonny Gray to the Reds.
But the question that will hang over this group all season will be, did the Yankees do enough to get their pitching to a point where they can catch up with the defending World Champion Red Sox?
After being spurned by lefty Patrick Corbin, who signed with the Nationals (six years, $140 million), Cashman made a quick and interesting pivot, trading for lefthander James Paxton. He signed J.A. Happ, who despite a surprisingly ineffective and short start against the Red Sox in the playoffs, brings a long track record of success against the rest of the AL East.
That rounds out a rotation with ace Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia, whom the Yankees re-signed this winter.
It looks like a solid rotation on paper, but there are red flags.
Paxton brings a nice, middle-of-the-rotation 3.42 ERA and 617 strikeouts in 582.1 career innings pitched, but also a concern about his injury history. He has never pitched more than 161 innings in a season.
Sabathia will turn 39 this summer, has a history or arthritis in his right knee and is coming off surgery to help remove blockages from his arteries.
Health will always be an issue for pitchers, but inconsistency was an issue for Severino last year. The Yankees better hope Severino addressed his yips from second half of the 2018 season. A Cy Young candidate in the first half, Severino was shockingly unreliable in the second half. He blew up in the ALDS and left many wondering if he can lead this staff in 2019.
The Yankees could see Jordan Montgomery come back from Tommy John surgery to add some depth to that rotation in the second half of the season, but there is still time for the Yankees to build in some insurance.
Last week, Yankees’ owner Hal Steinbrenner said that while he feels the Yankees projected Opening Day roster is improved from that of 2018, he hinted they may not be done adding.
If that is the case, then the Yankees might want to add some more depth to that rotation. Lucky for them, there are still very serviceable starters out there available on the free agent market, like Clay Buchholz, Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez.
That said, the Yankees invested heavily in their bullpen over the last two years. With Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino and Chad Greene back there, the Yankees won’t have to worry about their starters going too deep.