Barring a change of heart from Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, the club will not be bringing a new face into the 2017 rotation.
Cashman recently told the New York Post that filling the rotation voids will be too difficult for the Yankees to accomplish via free agency (payroll issues) or trade (unwillingness to meet demands). Instead, Cashman will stick with the youth theme, hoping that a couple of in-house talents emerge as viable fourth and fifth starters (or better).
Luis Cessa came over in last offseason's trade of Justin Wilson to the Detroit Tigers. The Yankees figured Cessa would provide some depth for the organization's Triple-A club. Due to various factors, Cessa, who turns 25 in April, became much more important to the Yankees than that as he tallied 70 1/3 innings with the big league club.
Of Cessa's 17 appearances with New York, he started nine games in which he registered a 4.01 ERA, 1.07 WHIP with a 6.1 K/9 strikeout rate and 1.4 BB/9. Cessa owns a 4.78 ERA in 139 1/3 combined Triple-A innings in the Mets', Tigers' and Yankees' systems.
Chad Green was the second piece of the Wilson trade, again with the same expectations for 2016 as Cessa. Green was also thrust into a role with New York, making 12 appearances (eight starts) in which he compiled a 4.78 ERA, 1.40 WHIP and 10.1 K/9.
Green's upside was witnessed at Triple-A in 2016 where he owned a 1.50 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 9.4 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 in 94 2/3 innings. Green, who will turn 26 in May, was placed on the disabled list in early September with a flexor strain in his elbow, but the righty is expected to be fully recovered and ready for spring training.
Bryan Mitchell won the swingman role out of spring training in 2016, but suffered an injury to his left big toe which required surgery. Mitchell rehabbed for most of the season and finally got back to the majors in September. The right-handed Mitchell started five games and looked like the pitcher the Yankees hoped to have all season, turning in a 3.24 ERA in 25 innings.
Mitchell, who turns 26 in April, has a history of control problems (4.3 BB/9 rate in almost 600 minor league innings), so in order to grab a role as a starter that number would have to drop significantly.
Luis Severino burst onto the scene in the summer of 2015, making 11 big league starts (62 1/3 innings, 2.89 ERA, 1.20 WHIP) in which he seemingly verified the prospect hype that had placed him atop MLB Pipeline's organizational rankings and as high as No. 23 across MLB. Severino won a rotation spot at the outset of the 2016 season, however he was dominated by hitters going 0-6 with a 7.46 ERA, 1.71 WHIP and an opponent's OPS of .919 in seven starts.
The performance prompted the Yankees to demote Severino, who turned things around at Triple-A. Severino was then used sporadically as a reliever and spot-starter for New York over the remainder of the season. Severino was spectacular as a reliever (23 1/3 IP, 0.39 ERA, 0.77 WHIP and 9.6 K/9), often shutting down the opposition in a fireman-type role. Severino turns 23 in February, which allows the Yankees to continue to develop the righty as a starter.
Adam Warren is the "old man" of the group as he enters his age-29 season. Warren had plenty of success as both a reliever and starter for the Yankees through 2015, but they parlayed his success into a trade for starting second baseman Starlin Castro. Warren had a rough go in Chicago, but was reacquired by the Yankees in the Aroldis Chapman deal. Warren once again provided the Yankees fine relief innings, making his poor performance with the Cubs look like an aberration.
The Yankees will give the right-handed Warren another chance to lock down a rotation spot as the spring begins, but it is hard to ignore the needed depth in the bullpen and his ability to provide multiple innings as a reliever. Warren's ultimate role will have as much to do with the performances and health of others around him as his own production.
As the Yankees enter the season deep in the midst of a roster transition, it seems like an appropriate time to decide if any of these pitchers are a part of the team's future. The good news for the Yankees is that each of these pitchers could aid the bullpen if necessary. Further, all but Warren could benefit by working as a starter in the minors, if health and performance of the rest of the rotation is not an issue.
If the Yankees continue to steer clear of the starting pitcher market and simply sign one more left-handed reliever, the club might settle on Warren in the bullpen and hope that Severino figures things out as the fourth starter (with a chance to climb the ladder). That would leave a slot left of which Cessa, Green and Mitchell could seemingly battle for all season. The pitchers left out of the mix would stay stretched out at Scranton.
The depth and ability to determine the readiness of the grouping is a certain plus for the Yankees in 2017 as they hope to become more competitive in 2018 and beyond.