Spring Training hasn’t even started, and the Yankees already have one IL bound player in James Paxton. Not trading J.A. Happ this offseason looks that much smarter now.
After a season in which a record 30 players were sent to the injured list, the New York Yankees will be without left-handed starter James Paxton for the first 3-4 months of the 2020 campaign.
Certainly not the way the Bombers wanted to begin a season where many project them to win the American League — on Wednesday, Paxton underwent surgery on his back to remove a peridiscal cyst.
According to Joel Sherman, Paxton began experiencing pain in his lower back during the final week of 2019 the regular season; however, doctors suggested a conservative approach. Therefore, Paxton received injections and responded well by pitching effortlessly during the playoffs.
By now we know that the Yankees fired most of their medical staff this winter — so some of this falls on their shoulders. But even still, why wait 4-6 weeks after the discomfort returned before electing to go under the knife if the first diagnosis of precaution and injections wasn’t successful?
With Paxton out until at least May, not trading veteran J.A. Happ might have been the best non-move general manager Brian Cashman made all offseason. While Happ is no longer the No. 2 that Paxton projected to be in the Yankees’ staff, he’ll easily slide into the No. 4 role.
Those “storm clouds” were indeed a factor in the Yanks holding on to J.A. Happ. One interesting addendum: Paxton was recovering from the injection, which is why he didn’t get the Game 1 start that went to Masahiro Tanaka.
A Spring Training battle for the final rotation spot will now unfold with the likes of Jordan Montgomery, Jonathan Loaisiga, Deivi Garcia, Luis Cessa and Michael King going pitch for pitch. Hoch notes that Cashman has already called it an “open competition.”
Yes, it’s annoying that we won’t get to see Paxton (a free-agent-to-be following 2020) possibly pitch more than the career-high 160.1 innings he reached in 2018 while with the Mariners — and the sheer fact that the Yankees will not be at their strongest, yet again, to begin a new season.
But this is precisely why the Bombers have a deep, albeit inexperienced bunch of pitchers that will need to once again step up in an hour of need.