MLB arbitration always has the potential to be a contentious process, but the Yankees are taking things too far with Luis Severino.
If the Yankees are going to win a World Series title in 2019 the organization will need Luis Severino to be at his absolute best. That means the talented righty needs to be right physically and mentally heading into next season. Arguing with Severino over less than $1 million in arbitration is not a good way to get him in the right head space.
Understandably, Brian Cashman and company want to trim payroll whenever they can. Presumably that’s why they are playing hard ball with Severino. Reportedly, the Yankees offered him $4.4 million for his final season before free agency, but Severino and his representatives are holding out for $5.25. That means the two sides will head into an arbitration hearing over a difference of just over $800,000.
It’s very possible the Yankees could win the hearing. The question is whether or not saving such a modest amount of money is worth the potential damage it could due to the team’s relationship with Severino. Assuming he pitches well in 2019, he’s going to be in line for a massive payday next winter. It’s very possible Severino will draw a harder line with the Yankees front office due to their stingy negotiations with him this year.
Severino’s mental state heading into next year should also be a massive concern for the team. He was dominant during the first half of 2018, but he was nowhere near as effective down the stretch. It’s easy to see how such an inconsistent season could plant some doubts in Severino’s psyche. The Yankees should be doing everything within their power to help him think and behave like an ace. Going into an arbitration hearing where team officials will be forced to articulate his shortcomings doesn’t accomplish that in the slightest.
Frankly, the Yankees would have been smart to try to lock Severino down to a long-term deal this winter. That would have been a slight gamble due to his struggles in the second half of 2018, but it could have paid off huge for the franchise. If he turns in a Cy Young level season in 2019 he’s got a real chance to become the highest paid pitcher in the game. That’s a contract Cashman could have avoided this winter.
Instead, the Yankees have chosen to fight with the player they need to anchor their pitching staff over less than $1 million. It’s a classic example of a team being a penny wise, but a pound foolish.