How the Yankees plan to cover for Domingo German while suspended
Despite being one of the team’s top starting pitchers for the entirety of the 2019 season, Domingo German was not a part of the Yankees’ postseason run due to his suspension under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy. German was held out of the final week of the regular season, and the entirety of the playoffs - a total of 18 games in all - before finally getting hit with an 81-game suspension this winter that will carry into June.
The Yankees, on paper at least, had one of the most dominating starting rotations in baseball without German, but recent injuries to James Paxton and Luis Severino have already crippled New York’s rotation depth. This is the exact spot that German could shine again in 2020, but he won’t be eligible to return until both Paxton and Severino will have returned to action.
So, what exactly is the plan for Domingo German right now? Per Aaron Boone, he will be working out at the team’s Dominican Republic facility for all of Spring Training, and then would presumably continue to keep up with his throwing plan until he’s eligible for reinstatement. The Yankees have already committed their full support to Major League Baseball and the MLBPA while German is suspended, but once he’s eligible for reinstatement I would expect the team to welcome him back with open arms so long as he’s shown his remorse for what happened and a commitment to not letting it happen again. However, since he cannot be counted on for any sort of contribution until mid-season, how can the Yankees fill out the remainder of their rotation?
For one, it’s a good thing that JA Happ was never traded this offseason. The Yankees toyed with the idea of moving Happ in an effort to relieve themselves of his $17 million Competitive Balance Tax hit for 2020, however, concerns with Paxton’s health ultimately pushed Brian Cashman to hold onto the lefty and that move is now paramount. Even having Gerrit Cole and Masahiro Tanaka in front of Happ, the Yankees’ rotation still has holes.
Who can fill the void, then? For starters, I think you have to look at Jordan Montgomery as a favorite to land in the rotation. Montgomery missed almost the entire 2019 season, making just a single appearance late in September, recovering from 2018 Tommy John Surgery. He should just now be getting back to full strength and primed to build on a promising 2017 rookie season. After Montgomery, however, it gets hairy.
Does Brian Cashman look to the trade market to add a veteran who can eat some innings for a month or two until Paxton and Severino return? Do the Yankees return to the Jonathan Loaisiga well that has shown mixed results at best? Perhaps Deivi Garcia or Mike King get opportunities? Or perhaps a journeyman veteran or AAA-er on the cusp of breaking through who is currently in camp as a non-roster invitee surprises everyone and earns himself the fifth spot in the rotation.
Loaisiga has struggled to stay healthy in parts of two seasons to start his Major League career, but he possesses a live arm that has the potential to dominate if he can effectively corral his stuff. Armed with a fastball that touches the upper 90s as well as a sharp curveball and changeup, Loaisiga has the tools necessary to succeed in an MLB rotation, but hasn't yet followed through on that promise. Still just 25, Loaisiga has thrown to a 4.79 ERA over parts of two seasons with a much-to-be-desired 91 ERA+. He has, however, struck out 70 batters over just 56.1 innings. He has struggled with control though - something that was actually one of his strengths in the minor leagues - walking 28 hitters.
Deivi Garcia was absolutely electric in the lower levels of the minors last season but struggled in his first taste of triple-A (1-3, 5.40 ERA, 1.475 WHIP, 8 HRs allowed in 11 games (six starts)). Still, though, he is the organization's top prospect arm and has an incredibly high ceiling. He'll almost assuredly start the season in triple-A as a starter, but like German might be flexed into a reliever role if the team deems that's his best use moving forward.
Mike King, to me at least, is the biggest wild card here. King best profiles the Domingo German role of a swingman in the New York bullpen. While he'll get stretched out as a starter this Spring, he saw action in a long-relief role for the Yankees last September and is a strong candidate to break camp on the 26-man roster. King had a Deivi Garcia-esque rise through the minors in 2018, but an injury early in spring training 2019 set his season back a few months. Still, he was able to reach the bigs by season's end and looked good in two innings of work in Texas at the end of the September.
After going 18-4 with a 4.03 ERA and 153 strikeouts in 143.0 innings of work in 2019, there’s no reason not to believe German will add a nice boost to the rotation once he’s eligible to be reinstated. The real question, however, is can the Yankees survive his suspension after having just lost their #2 and #3 starters before an inning of Spring Training was ever played?
Article by: Andrew Natalizio