Yankees: Luis Severino’s injury shows dangers of offering early extensions

New York Yankees pitcher Luis Severino (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
New York Yankees pitcher Luis Severino (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

Before the 2019 season began, the Yankees signed Luis Severino and Aaron Hicks to contract extensions. Not only did the pair miss extensive time last season due to injury, but both will have undergone Tommy John surgery.

Perhaps there was something to the Yankees longstanding policy of not offering their players contract extensions before reaching free agency.

After all, if Luis Severino and Aaron Hicks are any indication of what occurs after inking lucrative, longterm deals, the Yanks may put the kibosh on early renewals.

Clearly, the injuries sustained by Hicks and Severino shortly after agreeing to lucrative extensions are entirely coincidental — even if both end in Tommy John procedures.

Following breakout performances in 2018, Hicks (career-high 27 home runs and 79 RBIs in 137 games) agreed to a seven-year, $70 million contract — while Severino (19-8 with a 220:46 K:BB ratio in 32 starts) inked a four-year, $40 million pact.

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As of last spring, both appeared to be some great business done by the Yankees. Oh, what a difference a year makes. While Hicks should return sometime in August after suiting up just 64 times last season — Severino will miss at least the next 12 months.

Sure, Sevy should go under the knife now rather than waiting any longer (similar to James Paxton). However, you have to wonder if battling to return from back and shoulder injuries for three regular-season games last season didn’t do more harm than good?

Essentially, by the time Severino resumes playing (we’ll say spring 2021 for argument’s sake), the Yanks would have paid him $20 million for five starts (two in the 2019 postseason — totaling 20.1 innings).

Crystal ball aside, no one could have seen the severity of the injury coming, but you rarely do in professional sports. And that’s why teams act like the business entity they are.

While fans may not like that D.J. LeMahieu is entering the final year of his two-year, $24 million deal, what happens if he were to go down for an extended period and because of luxury tax implications, the club is unable to go out and acquire a suitable replacement?

That’s essentially what Cashman told Bryan Hoch following the news of Severino’s diagnosis.

"“You rely on your depth. I wouldn’t expect any domino effect or cause and effect in terms of us being able to go to marketplace. The winter marketplace this time of year, it doesn’t exist.”"

In a similar vein, Aaron Judge is fantastic when healthy — and there’s clear proof he is the new face of MLB. But the man has missed 110 games over the past two seasons. Locking him up long term is logical, but so is allowing him to play out his arbitration years and then sitting down at the negotiating table.

A gamble? Sure, but so was what the club did with Severino and Hicks — and as of today, its backfired immensely. Yes, each case should be looked at individually, but it’s understandable if situations like these give the Yankees’ brass, pause, moving forward.

Having a fully stocked farm system is vital in today’s game, but as the re-signing of Brett Gardner shows, there were no cheaper/talented/readily available outfield prospects in the system to replace Hicks. Therefore a 36-year-old player we know will be hard-pressed to play center field every day while producing at the plate the way he did in ’19 was re-signed for $12.5 million.

Next. Yankees need Jonathan Loaisiga now more than ever. dark

And while the likes of Deivi Garcia, Michael King, Jonathan Loaisiga, Jordan Montgomery and Luis Cessa will battle it out for two rotation spots until Paxton and Domingo German return (the latter being from suspension), the World Series favorite New York Yankees are beginning the 2020 campaign with an unproven backend of its rotation.