The Yankees may end up signing Dallas Kuechel after all. Luis Severino’s injury setback will force Brian Cashman to rethink his position on the free agent.
When Luis Severino was supposed to return in early May from his shoulder injury it didn’t make sense for the Yankees to sign a free agent to fill his spot in the rotation. Things have changed now. The news that Severino will miss at least six more weeks due to a new injury means GM Brian Cashman may dip into the free agent market to strengthen his starting pitching options.
In some ways the news that Severino is suffering from a grade 2 lat strain is good news for Yankee fans. It means there isn’t a more complicated issue in his shoulder that could derail his long-term career. On the other hand, it leaves the Yankees short their best starting pitcher until mid-June at the earliest.
Currently, Jonathan Loaisiga is doing his best to fill in for Severino. The young right hander has a lot of talent, but he’s never pitched a full season in the minors due to various injury issues. There’s no chance he can be trusted to handle a full starter’s workload for an extended period of time. He’ll need to be kept on a strict innings limit to make sure his health is preserved.
That essentially means that Cashman and the Yankees have a ticking time bomb of sorts on their hands. They can count on Loaisiga for a few more starts, but he’s not a long-term solution for the rotation. The organization doesn’t have anyone that can provide that kind of presence in the majors unless Gio Gonzalez suddenly figures things out.
Add all of these factors up and it’s clear that Cashman has to reconsider the possibility of adding Dallas Keuchel to the roster. Ken Rosenthal is already reporting that the southpaw’s asking price has already started to drop. He’s currently looking for either a one-year deal that will pay him more than his $17.9 million qualifying offer or a multi-year pact for a slightly smaller average annual value.
That kind of contract would represent a significant insurance policy for the Yankees, but it might be one that really pays off. Keuchel can’t replace Severino as an ace, but he does have the ability to replace the innings the Yankees need their No. 1 starter to eat up over the course of the season. That type of durability can help save a lot of wear and tear on the bullpen over the course of a full season.
Signing Keuchel also would protect the Yankees from another injury hitting their rotation. James Paxton is off to a hot start, but he’s never gotten close to 200 innings pitched in a single season. CC Sabathia is probably in the last season of his career and has yet to make his first appearance after recovering from cardiac surgery in the offseason. Even Masahiro Tanaka is a solid bet to miss at least a few starts due to injury.
None of this is to say that the Yankees need to panic and pay through the nose for Keuchel, but Cashman needs to see exactly what it would take to bring him to the Bronx. Severino’s additional injury may change signing another starter from a luxury to a necessity for the Yankees.