The Yankees have a number of players currently who are currently on the disabled list, but what will New York do when they return?
The baseball season is a tumultuous 162-game journey with no shortage of slumps or injuries. The injury bug bit the Yankees hard last year as they saw a number of key players spend significant time on the shelf, like Gary Sanchez, Masahiro Tanaka, and most notably Aaron Judge. This year, the injuries started piling up before the season even started, as the team enters the season with a handful of notable players on the Injured List (formerly known as the Disabled List).
Luis Severino, Aaron Hicks, and Dellin Betances all landed on the IL in early March and CC Sabathia will also be placed on the IL after he finishes serving his five-game suspension that carried over from last season. Didi Gregorius and Jordan Montgomery also start the season on the IL, though they aren’t expected back with the team until the summer, while the other four should be back sooner.
The Yankees are deep enough to sustain these injuries, but when Severino, Hicks, Betances and Sabathia return, the roster will need to be reconfigured. Here’s a look at how the roster could change when these players return.
When he returns, Hicks figures to slide right back into his role as the leadoff hitter and starting centerfielder. He’s only gotten better each of the last few seasons and figures to continue to play at an All-Star caliber level in 2019. The real question manager Aaron Boone will be faced with is who he will have to take out of the lineup.
For all of Spring Training, Boone insisted that the team would not be opening the season with both first basemen Luke Voit and Greg Bird on the roster, even though each of them was lighting up the Grapefruit League with incredible numbers. The announcement that Hicks would miss the first week or so with a back injury opened the door for both Bird and Voit to be in the starting lineup, with one of them playing first base as the other DH’ing, while Giancarlo Stanton would start in left field and Brett Gardner in center field.
Both Bird and Voit followed up their stellar Spring Training with home runs on Opening Day. Though the plan a few weeks ago was to keep one of the two in Triple-A, Boone should do everything in his power to keep them both in the lineup as long as they each keep hitting. This would probably mean that Stanton would continue starting as the everyday left fielder with Hicks taking centerfield back from Gardner, who would be relegated to a bench role as a fourth outfielder and pinch-runner/late-inning defensive replacement.
As to who would get sent down to Triple-A when Hicks comes back, the easy answer seems to be Mike Tauchman, an outfielder acquired in a trade with the Rockies near the end of Spring Training. But if Boone is insistent on not keeping both Bird and Voit on the roster, one of them would be the one to go down to Triple-A.
Severino will hopefully be back with the team in early May, while Sabathia ideally should make his season debut sometime around mid-late April when his suspension and IL stint are over. Until then, the team is planning to roll with a rotation of Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, J.A. Happ, Luis Cessa and Domingo German.
They also signed Gio Gonzalez to a minor-league contract, but he doesn’t seem to be in the team’s immediate plans. Cessa, who had a very impressive Spring Training, is out of options so he’ll for sure stay on the roster in a bullpen role after Sabathia and Severino return unless his performance is bad enough that it warrants a DFA.
German also had a solid Spring Training, but he was very inconsistent last season, looking unhittable at times (quite literally, he pitched six no-hit innings in his first start of the year) but at other times unable to find the strike zone or prone to give up hard-hit ball after hard-hit ball. German could very well keep his spot on the roster when Severino and Sabathia return, but whether he will do enough to prove to the team that he is worth keeping in the bullpen is entirely in his hands.
This is all complicated even more by the return of Betances, whose decreased velocity raised some eyebrows in Spring Training, leading to an MRI that revealed inflammation in his right shoulder. Though a timeline has not been revealed for his return, he likely will return sometime in mid-April, and he should reclaim his spot as Aroldis Chapman’s set-up man.
If German pitches well, he should hold onto his roster spot and other relievers like Stephen Tarpley or Jonathan Loaisiga (who is expected to join the team during Sabathia’s IL stint) would likely be the ones to be sent down when the pitchers on the IL return.