Projecting Luis Severino's contract in free agency: Will Sevy leave Yankees?

New York Yankees v Cincinnati Reds
New York Yankees v Cincinnati Reds / Dylan Buell/GettyImages

For the time being, Luis Severino is back with the New York Yankees. His successful, 75-pitch 2023 debut took place exclusively on Peacock on Sunday morning; he completed 4.2 innings against the Cincinnati Reds, touching 99 MPH and proving that, as long as he stays healthy, he'll be a key cog down the stretch this season.

But will it be his last season in pinstripes?

Severino and the Yankees may share different goals for his career, but no matter the motivation, the process should be the same. If Severino pitches to the peak of his abilities this season, that's the best-case scenario for the team's World Series chances, as well as his individual earning journey.

Severino's free agency will be fascinating. The Yankees are the only franchise he's ever known. In both 2022 and 2023, he has disagreed vehemently with the way the team has handled his injuries. Even so, he reiterated last week that he would like to stay with the Yankees for the "rest of his life," stating, “I know they want the best for me" despite myriad miscommunications.

Is a reunion possible, though? Will the Yankees enthusiastically pay top-ish dollar for someone who's made 23 regular-season starts since his 2019 extension?

Yankees Free Agency: Will Luis Severino return to New York?

It looks less likely -- though still technically possible -- that the Yankees will undergo a midseason, 2016-style teardown and jettison Severino, a theory posited by ESPN's Buster Olney.

Still, the fact that he was (theoretically) the first out the door in case of emergency doesn't bode well for his long-term future in pinstripes.

Severino's competition in the starting pitcher market this offseason is extensive. He'll have to battle it out with the likes of Frankie Montas, Jordan Montgomery, Eduardo Rodriguez and Marcus Stroman on the third tier, well below Shohei Ohtani's mega-deal, and slightly below Aaron Nola, Sonny Gray and Lucas Giolito.

This will be a market where mid-tier contenders look to splurge, hoping they can get slight bargains while the league's top dogs are distracted by the Ohtani/Nola chases. Severino's upside is higher than, say, Jameson Taillon, who inked a four-year, $68 million contract in a similar market last offseason. If Sevy delivers for the remainder of the season, it seems unlikely he'll cost less than $17 million per season; the Yankees are currently paying him just $10 million.

Would the Yankees match a projected $18 million AAV for four seasons ($72 million)? It seems unlikely. And, if Severino struggles and doesn't earn that money, that would be a turn-off, too.

Moral of the story? Hope he dominates this season and gets the Yankees closer to the promised land, because it'll probably be his final campaign in the Bronx, no matter what.