Yesterday, New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone announced that Masahiro Tanaka will be their Opening Day starter when they face off against the Baltimore Orioles on March 28 at Yankee Stadium.
With Luis Severino not expected back from shoulder inflammation for roughly a month, Boone had to make new plans for the Yankees’ first game. Tanaka made it an easy choice because he’s thrown the ball well in each of his starts this spring.
James Paxton and J.A. Happ will follow Tanaka in the rotation, but who will follow them still remains to be seen. Domingo Germán has pitched well in Florida, allowing two runs over 7.1 innings with 12 K’s in the early going. Yesterday, Luis Cessa started against the Tigers, retiring the first 11 batters before allowing a hit. He has surrendered one run on five hits in his nine innings in his three appearances. Both Cessa and Germán are candidates to for the back end of the rotation with Sevy and CC Sabathia both unlikely to begin their seasons until late April.
What about Jonathan Loaisiga you ask? It’s a fair question. He has looked very good this spring, and he’s not ruled out by any stretch. But the Yankees are going to want to take it easy with him, especially after some injury problems limited him to 80 innings in 2018. Over Loaisiga’s professional career, he has thrown only 196 total innings in his four years. Chances are Jonathan will continue to hone his craft in Triple-A Scranton by starting every five days, building up his innings in a carefully controlled environment.
Cessa is out of options, and would require clearing waivers if the team tried sending him back to Scranton-Wilkes Barre, so he’s going to get every opportunity to make the team. Aaron Boone may decide to go with a five-man rotation right out of the gate. I see the rotation something like this until Severino and Sabathia return:
- J.A. Happ
Of course after Sevy and CC join the rotation, some decisions will have to be made for Germán and possibly Cessa, but I think both righties can hold down the fort in the meantime.
Just before 8 o’clock this morning, Jack Curry of the YES Network announced via Twitter that the New York Yankees signed center-fielder Aaron Hicks to a 7 yr./70 million dollar contract extension.
The extension begins with this season, replacing the one year contract Hicks signed in January, and extends through his age-35 season. This is an extremely wise move by Yankees GM Brian Cashman and the front office. It ensures that Hicks, Aaron Judge, and Giancarlo Stanton will stay together through 2022 at the earliest.
Hicks will man centerfield for the foreseeable future, at least until highly-touted OF prospect Estevan Florial is ready for major-league action. Florial is in Yankees camp as a non-roster invitee, but probably two years away. Chances are Hicks will shift to left field when that time comes.
For this season, it looks like long-time Yankee Brett Gardner will get most of the playing time in left. Gardy is 35, and wears down as the season goes on. He could split time with Clint Frazier, or Jacoby Ellsbury (remember him?) if he actually plays. The Yankees have to pay Ellsbury anyway, so they may as well see if he can contribute.
Long term, I have a feeling Cashman will try to trade Frazier if he has a healthy spring. With Hicks, Judge, Giancarlo and Florial, there’s really no room for Clint. They may as well trade him for prospects and start replenishing the farm system for the future.
Also of note, according to Jon Heyman, the Yankees are now shifting their attention to try to sign Dellin Betances to a long-term deal.
The Yankees play this afternoon against the Toronto Blue Jays at 1:00 on YES Network. The Big Maple, James Paxton makes his spring debut against Marcus Stroman. See you there!
Early this afternoon, the New York Yankees announced free agent J.A. Happ was returning to the team on a two-year contract with a vesting option for a third year. With Happ coming back, the Yankees now have six starting pitchers under contract for the 2019 season (although Sonny Gray most certainly won’t be returning to the team).
As of right now, the five man rotation seems to be shaping up as follows:
- Luis Severino
- James Paxton
- Masahiro Tanaka
- J.A. Happ
- CC Sabathia
It’s safe to assume GM Brian Cashman will still be looking to pick up another arm to add depth to the staff, especially since Sabathia’s balky right knee requires a DL stint to keep the pain at bay. Parker Bridwell, recently claimed on waivers from the Los Angeles Angels, was thought to be depth for the rotation. However, the team designated Bridwell for assignment, needing that spot on the 40 man roster for Happ.
Bridwell could always re-sign with the team on a minor league contract and accept a non-roster invitee, but he will be free to sign with any team.
There are still a good number of free agent starters available. Dallas Keuchel is still unsigned as of this writing, but with the Yankees already having three lefty starters, I would think they would look to add another righty for balance. I also think Cashman would prefer a less expensive option since the team will be paying north of 60 million just for the current five the team already has. A couple cheap options could be Clay Buchholz and Edwin Jackson. They both pitched very well for their teams this year and would assuredly be inexpensive in 2019. 45 year-old Bartolo Colon still wants to pitch. However, there are also a few guys in the Yankees system who could fill the role in Domingo German, Jonathan Loaisiga and Michael King. German and Loaisiga each showed promise as well as inconsistency in 2018, while King rose rapidly through the minors, starting in High-A Tampa and finishing with AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre.
All eyes are on the big free agents, waiting with baited-breath to see where Manny Machado and Bryce Harper will end up, but it will also be interesting to see how Brian Cashman shapes up the rest of the Yankees’ pitching staff.