It was reported yesterday that Yankees right-hander Frankie Montas will require shoulder surgery, keeping him out of action for most or perhaps all of the upcoming season. That led to some speculation that the club could try to make a trade for a replacement, but Andy Martino of SNY reports that no serious consideration of a trade has taken place and that the club will instead turn to internal replacements like Domingo Germán and Clarke Schmidt.
Per Martino’s report, there are a couple of reasons why the club is leaning in this direction. One factor is that they still have a strong front four even without Montas, which is certainly true. Gerrit Cole and Carlos Rodón would be in the discussion for the best one-two punch of any rotation in the league, while Luis Severino and Nestor Cortes provide the club with solid options for the next two slots.
That leaves the club in okay shape on paper, though another injury could quickly change that perception. Cortes is already hurt, dealing with a hamstring strain that caused him to withdraw from the World Baseball Classic, though he’s expected to be ready to go around Opening Day. Severino hardly pitched in the 2019-2021 stretch due to various injuries but managed to make 19 starts last year, though he did still make a trip to the 60-day injured list due to a lat strain. Rodón has largely been healthy the past two years but has had lengthy injury absences before, hardly pitching at all in 2019 or 2020.
By sticking with what they already have on the roster, the club is showing a lot of faith in that group to stay healthy, as well as believing in Germán and Schmidt. The former posted a 3.61 ERA in 72 1/3 innings last year, with a strong 6.4% walk rate but a subpar 19.5% strikeout rate. Schmidt had a 3.12 ERA in 57 2/3 innings with a 9.7% walk rate and 23.7% strikeout rate.
While believing in their players is one factor, Martino adds that the second factor is the club’s reluctance to cross the final luxury tax threshold, something that has come up in previous reports. Their current competitive balance tax figure is $292.48MM, per the calculations of Roster Resource, within a hair of the $293MM line. Going over it would lead to higher tax rates but no further penalties related to draft picks or things of that nature.
It doesn’t seem as though there’s absolutely no scenario in which the Yanks would cross that line. Martino reports that they did discuss Carlos Carrasco with the Mets this offseason. However, that was when it seemed as though the latter club was going to sign Carlos Correa and they wanted to move some salary off their books, such as the $14MM owed to Carrasco this year. Martino’s report indicates that once the Correa deal fell through and he signed with the Twins, Carrasco was no longer available.
Another path that the club gave some consideration to was Michael Wacha, as Joel Sherman of The New York Post reports that the Yankees checked in on him. However, he’s now off the board, having signed with the Padres this week.
It seems the team has some willingness to add another player under the right circumstances, but the desire to do so doesn’t appear very high. Free agency still features guys like Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer, whereas the trade market could theoretically have Chris Flexen and Adrian Houser on the block. It’s said that one phone call can quickly change things, but it seems the team is planning to lean on players already in the organization.
It’s a path that’s not without its risk, since the club has subtracted from its starting depth in recent years. Pitchers like Roansy Contreras, Jordan Montgomery, Hayden Wesneski, JP Sears and Ken Waldichuk and others have been dealt away over the past few seasons. The group still on the roster is strong for now but general manager Brian Cashman is aware the depth is shakier than usual. “We have a strong frontline and then obviously the next wave isn’t as strong as it has been in the past,” Cashman said to Sherman. “We need what we currently have to stay active and over the course of time, some alternative depth options might present themselves.” As they gear up for another battle in the cutthroat AL East, time will tell if they have the pieces to repeat as division champions.