By Ernie Palladino
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Trades, free agents, and organizational prospects may be obvious solutions to postseason droughts like the Yankees are now experiencing.
But general manager Brian Cashman recently added one more factor that may not be so easy to take for fans dissatisfied with the team’s one wild card appearance in the past four years.
That’s French for standing pat. And, if Cashman’s statements of a few days ago reflect his true intentions, the rotation will not be welcoming a new face anytime soon.
In fact, the big-money acquisition of closer Aroldis Chapman and his triple-digit fastball, and the more modest signing of Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday for the DH role may represent the extent of his free agent dealings this year. That’s two more than last season, but Chapman and Holliday still may not be enough to get the young pinstripers to the playoffs.
They could have used a new, accomplished arm in the rotation to go along with Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, and Michael Pineda. But Cashman said that’s not in the plans. It’s the very reason he didn’t even try to trade for White Sox ace Chris Sale, a deal the Death Star-rival Red Sox eventually did make at the Winter Meetings.
He may have bought into a widely accepted notion that the Yanks won’t be ready for playoff ball until 2018, anyway. By then, youthful future mainstays like Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, and Aaron Judge will have more significant experience under their belts.
Or the GM may be working under a restrictive payroll budget, an understandable obstacle considering the combined $30 million the Yanks will owe Chapman and Holliday in 2017.
Whatever the case, Cashman appears content to stick with two young arms at the back end of the rotation. And the success of that will have a lot to do with Cashman’s belief in Luis Severino as a starter.
Last year proved what the 22-year-old Dominican righty could do out of the bullpen. The middle-innings success he had in 2016 after he posted pre-demotion 0-8 record and 8.50 ERA as a starter fostered thoughts of planting him permanently in a relief role. But, noting a great rookie stint when Severino went 5-3 with a 2.89 ERA as a starter, Cashman believes it’s too early to give up on him as a rotation member.
Fair enough. But if Severino’s true calling is really as a reliever, he could put the Yanks in a bind from the get-go.
Then there’s the fifth spot.
Adam Warren? James Kaprielian? Luis Cessa?
Take your pick. Warren has experience, but doesn’t spark the imagination. Kaprielian is a highly regarded prospect, but is coming off a year hindered by elbow problems. Cessa did OK at 4-4, 4.35 last year, but the 16 homers he gave up in 70 1/3 innings is troubling.
The experienced arms out there offer little comfort. Who knows what Tanaka will be after pitching admirably through the last two seasons with that partially torn elbow tendon. It has never blown out completely, but one wonders if this is the season the Japanese ace’s luck will run out.
Sabathia is a year older at 36, and is coming off knee surgery. Not a good combination.
Pineda has never broken his Jekyll-and-Hyde nature. There’s no reason to think that will change significantly this year.
Still, Cashman appears intent on using the arms he already has under contract to fill out a suspect rotation.
He preaches patience.
He may be right.
But for a crowd that has come to expect consistent success, that’s not an abundant quality.
Follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino