In mid-December, when Carlos Rodón was being introduced to the ravenous New York media, it didn't seem wild to assert that the Yankees had built their strongest rotation in two decades. People romanticize the 2009 team, but by the postseason, they were stuck with a three-man rotation of CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Andy Pettitte. Bare bones. Chad Gaudin was on that roster. This really could've been the best five-man unit since the '90s.
In terms of pitching depth, though? Chad Gaudin would've been an improvement.
Just three months later, before the regular season has even begun, that depth has been tested tremendously. Rodón's forearm strain appears to be progressing well, but he'll miss the month of April, in all likelihood. Frankie Montas is out through August, at the very least.
And now, less than a week before the regular season, Luis Severino's low-grade lat strain has placed Jhony Brito in the starting rotation and moved Clarke Schmidt into the No. 2 starter role to open the campaign.
From Scranton to the No. 2 starter. This rags-to-riches story would be much more pleasant if he'd torn through the league like a tornado to earn the role, not stumbled into it with a solid spring as pieces hit the floor around him.
Brito is an interesting depth piece (11-4, 2.96 ERA last year, only 91 Ks in 112.2 Double-A/Triple-A innings), but he's also the Yankees' current internal last resort. Brian Cashman's plan was to trade away depth last season (Jordan Montgomery, JP Sears, Ken Waldichuk, Hayden Wesneski) and replace it internally thanks to an upper-echelon development program by midseason 2023. Unfortunately, it's March, and he needs it now.
It would stand to reason that the Yankees should seek out one of the very few teams with an overflowing rotation and engage them in trade talks. Seems like a good use of an infield logjam, no? If Anthony Volpe's going to push for a roster spot, that means Oswald Peraza could become trade bait. Maybe Gleyber Torres moves on. We know Josh Donaldson will play. What role does Isiah Kiner-Falefa play?
Whether it's IKF and a top prospect or Gleyber Torres and a lesser prospect in the package, that package needs to go to the Seattle Mariners for Chris Flexen. And quickly. Even if Severino and Rodón both recover faster than expected, Flexen would be more valuable to this Yankees team than their seventh infielder.
Yankees must trade for Mariners' Chris Flexen after Luis Severino injury
The champagne version of the Flexen move would involve a Peraza-led package (with many extra pieces) for Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds and breakout starter Mitch Keller. Talkin' Jake was all over this Saturday morning.
But if a blockbuster isn't in the works, both the Yankees and Mariners meeting in the middle and swapping excesses would immediately help New York cope (and, again, would obviously come into play later in the season to caddy for another injury concern). You can never have too much pitching, though Brian Cashman and the Yankees have proven repeatedly in their quest to unnecessarily shuffle their depth around that you can certainly have too little.
Last season, the 28-year-old Flexen outperformed his peripherals (4.49 FIP/3.73 ERA), but threw 137.2 innings of solid baseball for the Ms. He's a big-leaguer. Jhony Brito might not be. No matter how long Severino's out, this is an easy call. Almost ... too easy.