DUNEDIN, Fla. -- About 10 minutes after Brian Cashman peered through a pair of aviator sunglasses and detailed the process that had led Luis Severino toward season-ending Tommy John surgery, a seventh-inning drive whistled down the left-field line of the Blue Jays’ spring home, smacking the Yankees general manager in the breast of his polo shirt.
Surprised but not staggered, Cashman watched the baseball roll toward the parking lot, then returned to his telephone call. That foul liner was yet another body blow to absorb, and in a similar vein, Cashman believes the Yankees will withstand Severino’s absence without having to make an outside move.
“This time of year, you always look from within and see if you can give opportunities for what you have,” Cashman said. “Typically, that's how it shakes out, especially until after the June Draft. You rely on your depth. I wouldn't expect any domino effect or cause-and-effect in terms of us being able to go to the marketplace. The winter marketplace at this time of year, it doesn't exist.”
With the Yankees seemingly uninterested in the crop of remaining free-agent options -- which includes such veterans as Andrew Cashner, Jason Vargas and Clay Buchholz -- Cashman and manager Aaron Boone sound as though they are ready to continue evaluating what they have in camp.
“I don't want to sugarcoat the fact that being without Sevy, that's a blow, but it doesn't change our expectations and what we're truly capable of,” Boone said.
The Yankees’ rotation projects to feature Gerrit Cole, Masahiro Tanaka and J.A. Happ in the first three slots, with Jordan Montgomery considered a strong favorite to crack the rotation after touching 94 mph in a two-inning relief outing on Monday against the Pirates.
Here is a breakdown of the avenues that the Bombers could follow to fill their remaining vacancy:
The touted prospect: Deivi Garcia
13.34 K/9.0 IP ratio, fourth highest among all Minor League pitchers in 2019
Ranked as the Yankees’ No. 1 prospect by MLB Pipeline, Garcia rocketed from Class A Advanced Tampa to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last year, posting a 4.28 ERA in 26 games (21 starts) at three levels. Wielding a fastball that has touched 98 mph plus a nasty curve and a developing changeup, Garcia struck out 165 batters in 111 1/3 innings last season, though the Yankees believe he would benefit from more reps in the Minors. His 21st birthday isn’t until May.
The precision choice: Michael King
2.93 career ERA, 11th lowest among Minor Leaguers with at least 350 innings since 2016
Touted as having the best command in the system, the 24-year-old King made his big league debut last September after losing the first four months of the season to a stress reaction in his right elbow. His success relies on spotting a two-seam fastball that works in concert with his slider and changeup, and his strikeout rate has inched higher since joining the Yankees organization after being acquired from the Marlins in November 2017.
The intriguing arm: Jonathan Loaisiga
Touched 100 mph in a five-strikeout appearance last Sept. 21 vs. Toronto
The Yankees snapped up Loaisiga after injuries washed him out of the Giants’ system in 2015, and he has shown glimpses of his tantalizing ceiling along with a frustrating inability to remain healthy. The first Nicaraguan-born player in Yankees history, the 25-year-old Loaisiga continues to stir debate over whether he best projects as a starter or a reliever. He would prefer to start, but Boone said he could see Loaisiga being dominant out of the bullpen.
The polished arsenal: Clarke Schmidt
Has the best four-pitch mix (fastball, curveball, slider, changeup) among Yanks farmhands
Ranked as the Yankees’ No. 5 prospect by MLB Pipeline, Schmidt returned from Tommy John surgery last June and showed the potential for four solid or better pitches, combining to go 6-5 with a 3.47 ERA in 19 games (18 starts) at three levels of the system. The 24-year-old has confidently said that he intends to reach the Majors this year, though one potential stumbling block is that he is not currently on the 40-man roster.
The local guy: Nick Tropeano
3.56 ERA and 113 ERA+ in 13 starts for Angels in 2016
Boone listed the 29-year-old Tropeano as a rotation candidate on Tuesday. Once a fifth-round selection of the Astros (2011) out of SUNY Stony Brook, the product of West Islip, N.Y., has gone 12-14 with a 4.38 ERA in 39 big league starts, all but four of them with the Angels. A non-roster invitee at camp, Tropeano spent most of 2019 at Triple-A Salt Lake, where he logged a 5.87 ERA in 17 games (15 starts).
The sinkerballer: Chad Bettis
59.6 percent ground-ball rate in 2019, ninth among Major League relievers
Earlier this month, the Yankees took a flyer on Bettis, who turns 31 in April and is coming off a season in which he posted a 6.08 ERA in 39 games (three starts) for the Rockies. After six years in Colorado, Bettis boasts the most big league experience of these candidates, but he’d also be the most expensive option -- he’ll earn $1.5 million if he makes the Major League roster, plus a possible $2 million in performance bonuses.
The opener: Chad Green
3.72 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 15 regular-season opening assignments
Asked prior to the Severino news if he could see the Yankees using an opener, Boone replied that he is not ready to rule anything out, and that surely holds true now. Green filled the opener role with aplomb last year, as the Yanks went 11-4 in his "starts," not including Game 6 of the ALCS against the Astros. Green retired 50 of 70 batters faced over his final 13 opening assignments, beginning on May 27.