Elbow injury paves sad path for Jonathan Loaisiga's Yankees return

A familiar story, but this doesn't have to be the end of the road.
2024 New York Yankees Spring Training
2024 New York Yankees Spring Training / New York Yankees/GettyImages

The New York Yankees lost Jonathan Loaisiga for a significant chunk of time on Friday morning when the reliever was formally placed on the 60-Day IL with a flexor strain in his right elbow.

Aaron Boone and the team seemed to be well aware of Loaisiga's injury struggles cresting over time rather than dissipating when they addressed his continued absences last fall; Boone seemed to hint that the team might not feel comfortable tendering him a contract, prior to everyone agreeing that the benefit outweighed the cost.

That may still be true. Loaisiga's nasty moving fastball and tight breaker could very well have won the Yankees one game out of their first seven contests, as he wriggled them out of a crucial jam on Opening Day in Houston.

Regrettably, that might be the only benefit he provides for quite a while, as three appearances into the new season, he has once again been lost for the long-term, requiring surgery that will end his season. Loaisiga will now enter free agency this offseason after playing on a $2.5 million contract in 2024, and while it's tempting to say an early farewell, this unfortunate injury might actually make the righty's return more likely (provided the Yankees aren't fed up with his lack of reliability).

Yankees more or less likely to bring Jonathan Loaisiga back for 2025 after latest elbow injury

Doesn't it feel like ... (ducks) ... the Yankees are more likely to re-sign him now to some sort of shorter-term, neutered pact?

If you're signing Loaisiga -- at all, for any length of time, as the Yankees surely factored into their, "To Tender or Not to Tender?" decision last fall -- you're assuming a larger degree of injury risk than you would with most players. You're almost baking one into any future expectations. Other MLB teams know this as well. If a daring rival or free-spender dangles even two guaranteed years in front of Loaisiga after this season -- which he seems destined to miss most or all of -- the Yankees are unlikely to match. But what are the odds that will happen? And didn't they just decrease dramatically?

Loaisiga's career high in innings pitched (70 2/3 in 2021) feels like a fever dream now, and also represented the closest he's come to fulfilling his significant promise as a dominant closer in waiting. He struggled through early-season rust the next year and took some time to heal, posting 48 innings and rounding into peak form by the playoffs, but 2023 and now 2024 have been nearly wiped off the map entirely. Perhaps this surgical procedure actually prevents the future injuries he's become so famous for receiving in recent years?

His price will rise this offseason in accordance with a typical arbitration raise year-over-year, but anything more than a $6-7 million guarantee for a single season (likely with a vesting option) feels unwise. It also feels unlikely that a team that is less familiar with Loaisiga's ins and outs would be willing to guarantee more. He could easily appear in pinstripes again next year -- unless he and Kahnle team up to convince the Yankees to never guarantee money of any kind to a reliever again.