Coming off an injury-ravaged 103-win season, the Yankees have added ace Gerrit Cole to the top of their rotation. They are set to enter spring training as the AL favorites and arguably World Series favorites. But Aaron Boone's team got some bad news Wednesday when it was announced that lefty James Paxton will miss .
It's a blow, to be sure, but far from a death knell for the Bronx Bombers.
First off, the wording in the Yankees' release was "timeline to return to Major League action is 3-4 months." Sometimes a team says a player is shut down for a period of time, but here the Yankees have given their expectation as to a timeline before he's back with the club. Let's say they are correct on the slow end of the estimate. Four months is June 5, meaning Paxton will have missed only game action for two of the four months. That's not great, but getting the majority of the season in after news like this is a positive.
Even with Paxton sidelined,, the Yankees' rotation appears to upgraded from last year's.
Paxton pitched to a 3.82 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 2.2 WAR in 150 2/3 innings last season. Cole has been signed to be the ace and it's hard to see him not dwarfing these numbers. Masahiro Tanaka is back in the rotation and it's hard to see him being much worse than last regular season (4.45 ERA, 1.242 WHIP in 32 appearances). Even if someone doesn't believe he's any better, he's a wash. Luis Severino only made three starts last season and looks to be ready for a full rotation return.
That leaves two spots being filled by lefties with something to prove.
J.A. Happ had a 4.91 ERA, 5.22 FIP, 1.30 WHIP and 1.2 WAR in 161 1/3 innings. He'll need to remain in the rotation at least until Paxton can come back, but all he really needs to do in order for this rotation to be better than last year is pitch similarly to 2019. Stepping up would be welcomed, too.
Last, it's Jordan Montgomery. He missed nearly all of last season thanks to recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he's healthy heading into 2020. Montgomery showed promise as a 24-year-old rookie in 2017 when he had a 3.88 ERA (116 ERA+), 4.07 FIP, 1.23 WHIP, 2.9 WAR and 144 strikeouts against 51 walks in 155 1/3 innings. He's no ace, but he only has to pitch like a No. 4 or 5 for the Yankees, and that seems like a pretty decent bet. Let's call him a plus over CC Sabathia (4.95 ERA, 0.3 WAR) and a bunch of spot starters.
Even before Paxton's return, compare the Yankees' main rotation pieces:
2019: Paxton, Tanaka, German, Sabathia, Happ
2020: Cole, Tanaka, Severino, Montgomery, Happ
Come early June, Paxton is set to return take over for Montgomery or Happ. I don't think there's any question they are in better shape this time around.
Paxton's injury is a setback, but will ultimately it should prove to be a minor one.