In his end-of-season press conference back in October, general manager Brian Cashman apparently put an end, at least temporarily, to the controversy of whether he is going to work as a starter or reliever, confirming that he will enter 2017 in either the MLB or Triple-A rotation:
"All I can tell you is I hope he can regain starter-ceiling status. He’ll get that opportunity. Whether it’s in New York or in Scranton next year remains to be seen. Only he’ll dictate that. The game will tell us, and then over time, if he eventually winds up in the ‘pen because of it, because he can’t seem to have that consistency, and then that’s ultimately what he’ll settle. So I do believe that he’s a major league pitcher. But the hope is that he’ll be a major league starter, and that’s something that we need."
Cashman certainly leaves the door open to Severino moving to the pen in the long run, but the 22-year-old righty remains one of the few pitchers in the minor league system with the potential to be a front-of-the-rotation arm, so they need to give him every opportunity to stick as a starter.
Yankees skipper Joe Girardi sounded much more open to the idea of using Severino in the bullpen in 2017 at the conclusion of last year, telling Chad Jennings of the Journal News:
"“I think (his role) is a topic for discussion in the winter. I do. And I think what you try to do next spring is you take the 12 best pitchers when you leave camp, but I’m sure there will be talks around the table about that.”"
Severino looks like he could be a late-inning weapon to rival Chapman or Dellin Betances next year if given the chance. It really comes down to whether the Yankees want to prioritize their short or long-term interests, and for a rebuilding team, the focus needs to be what is best for the organization’s future.
However, if Severino continues to struggle next year as a starter but New York is in the playoff hunt, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him moved to the pen full-time once again to help with their postseason push, and if that happens, the transition would likely be a permanent one.