How does Severino's setback affect Yanks' staff?

Beat reporter Bryan Hoch answers fans' questions

April 11th, 2019

With Luis Severino out another six-plus weeks, do you see Gio Gonzalez coming up soon, or a Dallas Keuchel signing? -- Alex S., Georgetown, Ky.

The news on Severino is unfortunate, pushing all realistic estimates for his return to somewhere around the All-Star break. The Yankees continue to say that they can patch the hole from within. CC Sabathia is returning to the rotation to face the White Sox on Saturday, and while his continued health is far from certain, Sabathia should represent an upgrade over Jonathan Loaisiga.

Since the day Gonzalez signed in Spring Training, the sense has been that they are treating him as an emergency option. Despite the rash of injuries, it doesn't appear that they have reached that point. Though Gonzalez's base contract is $3 million, he earns an additional $300,000 for each start, so that figure would rise quickly if he takes regular turns in the rotation.

Considering that Gonzalez has had mixed results against Minor League opponents (he did pitch well in his last Triple-A start), the Yankees want to find out if a combination of Sabathia, Loaisiga and Domingo German can do the job effectively before they add Gonzalez's salary to the mix. Complicating matters is that Gonzalez has an April 20 opt-out, though he did say that the Yankees' offer was the only one he received.

As for Keuchel, there is still no smoke connecting the Yankees to the veteran left-hander. Why? The simple answer is that he is seeking more money than teams are willing to offer -- MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal has reported that he wants a one-year deal worth more than the $17.9 million qualifying offer that Keuchel turned down from the Astros, or a long-term deal (Houston was only willing to go two years, and they know him best).

That's a steep figure to begin with, and then factor in that the Yankees are again over the luxury tax threshold, so every dollar they hypothetically pay Keuchel would be taxed at a 32 percent rate. Let's make the math easy and call it an $18 million deal; suddenly you're at $23.76 million. Then factor in that Keuchel has Draft compensation attached, and the Yankees are in no rush to lose the 37th overall pick in 2019, which they got from Cincinnati in the Sonny Gray trade.

Can we start seeing more competitive at-bats, a la DJ LeMahieu? The glory teams had several guys that would grind out at-bats. LeMahieu is an outlier on this team. -- Dan A., via Twitter

Having the opportunity to watch LeMahieu's approach on a regular basis, it's no wonder that he was able to win a batting title with the Rockies in 2016. While you can't wave a magic wand and make all nine guys in the lineup take on LeMahieu's characteristics, his signing was underrated. There's no doubt that his approach has made an impression in the early going.

"I think he has been a lot of what we anticipated," manager Aaron Boone said. "Really good approach, really tough, quality at-bats. I even felt like I saw that in Spring Training, even though he wasn't getting a lot of results. I felt like he was hitting the ball fairly well. He's a pro, man. He's a tough out, he's really competitive. By and large, he's a guy that gives you a solid at-bat."

A few weeks into the season now, how do you feel about Luke Voit and Greg Bird? -- Hunter F., New Jersey

The so-called "competition" in the spring never materialized, thanks in large part to Aaron Hicks' injury, which permitted both Voit and Bird to make the Opening Day roster. My take was that Voit's performance last year would give him an insurmountable lead, no matter what Bird did in the Grapefruit League -- it was Voit's job to lose, not Bird's to win.

That's still largely the case. Let's grade them as incomplete so far; both have shown some good things, some not-so-good. Bird has the defensive edge, but Voit has the more impactful bat at this point in time. They are going to continue splitting reps at first base for the foreseeable future.

With Clint Frazier swinging a hot bat, does left field seem to be his job when Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton return? -- Joe S., Holtsville, N.Y.

Great question. Stanton will likely return before Hicks (potentially by the end of April), so it will be interesting to see if Boone keeps Frazier's bat in the lineup at that time. One could argue -- especially after the Houston series -- that the better alignment would be to have Stanton in left field and Frazier serve as the designated hitter.

If Frazier keeps hitting, I don't see how they would justify sending him back to the Minors. The wild card is how committed the Yankees are to Mike Tauchman, whom they believe can be an impact player on both sides of the ball. Boone has mentioned a couple of times that they want to find out what they have in Tauchman, who came over from the Rockies in late March.

What is the situation with Hicks? They initially said it would be a few days. What happened? -- Elizabeth C., New York

Indeed, Hicks' last appearance in a game situation was on March 1, and he said shortly thereafter that he was not concerned about missing Opening Day. We know how that turned out. Two cortisone injections later, Hicks has mostly been confined to treadmill exercises and core strengthening work in the gym, combating what doctors diagnosed as chronic back pain.

That's an unsettling term to be attached to a player who just signed a seven-year, $70 million extension, and it is curious that the ailment popped up just days after Hicks passed a physical for the new contract. The latest updates from Tampa have Hicks running, throwing and hitting soft-toss, so we are still weeks away from seeing him in a big league game.

Why did the Yankees send Thairo Estrada down after just one game? -- Greg B., Newark, N.J.

Estrada will eventually get to make his debut, but as of now, he is in that strange ether of players who wore a big league uniform but never actually stepped between the white lines. After the Yankees called up Gio Urshela in Estrada's place on April 6, Boone explained that the team "wanted to make sure we explored every option possible before we made that move."

Reading between the lines, the Yankees may have been trying to make a trade. When one did not materialize, they decided to add Urshela to the 40-man roster and plug him in as their third baseman.

Any word on Jordan Montgomery’s return? -- Tyler M., Cincinnati

It has been slow and steady progress for Montgomery, who is continuing to work out at the Player Development complex in Tampa, Fla. Montgomery has advanced to throwing off a mound, and is targeting August for his return to the big leagues after undergoing Tommy John surgery.