For the second-straight season, the New York Yankees are fending off an onslaught of injuries to their top players. Here’s what it means.
When planning a trip to watch the New York Yankees in the Bronx, wise fans will first check the weather. These days, it’s equally imperative that they also check the injury report to ensure a full Bombers experience.
Two-fifths of the starting rotation is already gone. Luis Severino underwent Tommy John surgery and will miss the entire season; James Paxton went under the knife to fix a back issue, and he probably won’t return until May.
Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, two of the biggest names (and bodies) in the New York lineup may also miss significant time in 2020. If they do, it would be the second-straight such year for Stanton, and the third-consecutive unfortunate campaign for Judge.
The parallels to the Yankees’ 2019 injury debacle are clear. That means it’s time to consider what another journey into the farthest reaches of the Bombers’ roster depth means for 2020.
1. Validates spending a fortune on Gerrit Cole
One positive consequence of an injury barrage is that it justifies the Yankees investing $324 million in Gerrit Cole over the next nine years.
Imagine the New York rotation without Cole to start 2020. Masahiro Tanaka isn’t so bad as the ace, but the drop-off after him is precipitous.
The No. 2 starter would likely be J.A. Happ, the southpaw of 2019 disrepute. Following Happ would be Jordan Montgomery, another even more unproven youngster, and probably Chad Green as an opener.
With Cole anchoring the pitching staff, the Yankees should be able to weather the storm until Paxton’s return without a hasty trade that could bite them in the butt down the road.
2. Makes trading for pitching reinforcements difficult
‘MLB rumors: Jeff Samardzija ‘makes sense’ for Yankees? What to make of report’ by @RandyJMiller for @njdotcom: A new #Yankees trade rumor was drummed up Friday afternoon… https://t.co/hXij2SIEC5 pic.twitter.com/lJmpyBiuAS
— New York BBWAA (@NYBBWAA) March 1, 2020
Now, if Paxton suffers a setback during rehab, or Happ continues the descent into washed-up territory he started in 2019, or if the young subs at the back of the rotation fall flat, a trade for a pitcher could be necessary.
There’s a big problem with that, though. Some of the New York Yankees’ best trading chips are desperately needed in the Bronx.
Before the 2020 wave of injuries started rolling in, Miguel Andujar and Clint Frazier were at the top of many prognosticators’ most-likely-to-be-traded lists. Now they could be competing to start in place of the injured Judge and Stanton.
Plus, the way things are going, more injury-birthed opportunities are just around every corner of the baseball diamond.
3. Interferes with the development of top prospects
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) August 13, 2019
Despite Frazier and Andujar’s sudden increase in depth value, general manager Brian Cashman may still feel it’s worth the risk to swap them for an arm or two. Such a move would bump up underdeveloped position prospects to next in line as fill-ins.
Conversely, if Cashman rides with his current arms arsenal, young pitchers may prematurely arrive at the MLB level.
The name that really stands out here is Deivi Garcia.
Garcia made a name for himself with a rapid rise through the Bombers’ farm system in 2019. But he’s just 20 years old, and he struggled in his first triple-A experience last season.
He’s clearly not ready for big league bashers to swing their bats like sledgehammers at his young psyche.
Still, a dearth of starters could tempt the Yankees to throw Garcia or one of his contemporaries to the MLB wolves. While that would be fun to watch in the moment, it could produce long-term damage that wouldn’t be so titillating.
4. Ensures the only surprise will be a bad one
Mike Tauchman’s first at bat this spring. Swinging strikeout pic.twitter.com/72ESJ8filH
— Hoodie Arod (@HoodieArod) February 25, 2020
Most of the 2019#nextmanup heroes are still in pinstripes. They pleasantly surprised everyone once; if they do it again, the shock this time around will likely be more negative in nature.
Fans grew accustomed to seeing Gio Urshela, Mike Tauchman, Mike Ford, Thairo Estrada, and company succeed ad nauseam last season. If they continue that in the next campaign, only the pinstripe pessimists who saw 2019 as a fluke will be taken aback.
Also, if that crew flops or joins the swelling ranks of injured Yankees, the chances that the third-stringers step up are not so great. There’s that thing about lightning striking the same place twice, and such that gets in the way.
That means the only surprise the bulk of New York Yankees fans are due for is a gut-wrenching one.
5. Turns spring training games into must-see TV
1st back-to-back of the Spring ☝️ pic.twitter.com/YZN2bi86Si
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) February 27, 2020
Fans who might have been tempted to skip out on spring training should now reconsider. The Yankees’ recent injuries have opened up some major battles for starting jobs.
The final slot in the rotation is up for grabs among Jonathan Loaisiga, Luis Cessa, Michael King, Clarke Schmidt, and Deivi Garcia. (Even if common sense says it’s a bad idea to put Garcia in that mix, it would be incredibly exciting to see him force Aaron Boone’s hand.)
Before the Judge and Stanton physical issues surfaced, the main position-player competition was between Luke Voit and Mike Ford at first base, and Frazier, Andujar, and Tauchman for a fourth outfield spot.
Now it’s highly possible that two starting outfield jobs, designated hitter, and first base are all available to the best performers.
What else on TV could possibly be more entertaining than the resulting cutthroat competition?
In the end
Whatever happens, New York Yankees fans should brace themselves for #nextmanupagain, which may be more of a #nextmandown situation. Opening Day 2020 is less than one month away, but there’s still plenty of time for more big-name Bombers to fall.