Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

With the New York Yankees acquisition of Gerrit Cole this offseason, it was proclaimed that the rotation might be one of the best in the business. Well, temper expectations, my friends.

Allison Case

The 2020 baseball season is already attached to incredibly high expectations. The New York Yankees have knocked on the door of the Fall Classic multiple times in the past few years, but are just awaiting the opportunity for their official breakthrough.

With Gerrit Cole and a blank check, the Yankees were able to lure him away from the clutches of their opponents and finally cement a solid ace in their rotation. The workhorse is something they have been missing for several years, and, with one swift signature, the fans were convinced that this is their year.

Being an optimist, the first thought is that this is the move that will propel them into the World Series and hopefully to a championship. Being a realist, however, brings about the thought that maybe it’s time to be cautiously optimistic.

Cole has already shown what skills he brings to the table. His devastating repertoire of pitches and his ability to work late in the game will bring added confidence to a Yankees team loaded with young talent. He’s already handled the pressure of the postseason.

Will he handle the Bronx environment? That has yet to be determined, but he completely shut the Yankees down in the Bronx a short while ago during Game 3.

If his reinvention means anything, he should be a solid No. 1 starter for a Yankees rotation that has been lacking in that department. He’ll provide some rest for the bullpen as well, having the ability to stretch his outings.

Having Cole at the top of the rotation easily makes the rest of the rotation look better by example. And while the rotation does have some superstars in it, there are still concerns surrounding the remaining members of this rotation.

The depth chart lists the starting rotation following Cole as Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, Luis Severino, J.A. Happ and Jordan Montgomery. That alone sounds like a solid group in the top four with options for that fifth slot. But let’s look at the bigger picture.

Tanaka can pitch like an ace one day and the next, give up six runs in two-thirds of an inning to the putrid 2019 Boston Red Sox. Besides that, his injury history is rather lengthy. He’s hit the injured list practically every season he’s been with the Yankees.

Tanaka is 31 years old and he’s been pitching for quite some time, coming over after six years of pitching in the Nippon Professional Baseball’s Pacific League. Now, with various injuries to his right elbow and hamstrings, it’s become time to be cautious when it comes to relying heavily on Tanaka.

Paxton also comes to the Yankees with a storied injury history. The lefty missed significant time in Seattle due to injuries, and when he came over to the Yankees via trade last offseason, he emerged as the MVP of the second half of the season. Winning 10-straight decisions from August to September, he set the bar high for playoff expectations.

The injury history though is where the concern should lie. Even though he didn’t succumb to injury last season, as he’s getting older, the idea of potential injury should creep back in.

Gerrit Cole, Cole Train T-Shirt

Following Paxton is Luis Severino. A young stud who was being groomed to fulfill a homegrown ace role, he missed almost the entirety of the 2019 regular season due to a Grade 2 lat strain. And that’s the concern right there.

Severino is coming off an entire season of no in-game action except for when he was thrust back into the rotation during the playoffs. He’s going to be rusty. He’s going to take some time to get back to the level we are all familiar with.

And that fifth slot will house either J.A. Happ and his perchance for allowing a multitude of home runs, or Jordan Montgomery, who has been inactive for an entire season.

On the surface, the rotation looks like it could be among the best in the sport. But when you delve deeper into each piece, the concerns pile up. Injuries tend to be the main concern but inconsistency also plays a role in this rotation. Adding Gerrit Cole makes the rotation better but it doesn’t automatically make it a perfect combination.

The rotation has some work to do but it could be one of the biggest assets. Just slow your roll when it comes to the outcome of the rotation. It’s not great yet, but it definitely can become exactly that by baseball’s midseason.

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