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A Phillies/Yankees SP trade seems unlikely

Luis Severino won’t pitch in 2020. Will the Bombers come calling Matt Klentak for a replacement?

MLB: New York Yankees-Workouts Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees got some bad news Tuesday: Starting pitcher Luis Severino needs and will undergo Tommy John surgery later this week. It’s a significant blow to their rotation, and dashes hopes that the team would get more out of Severino than the three starts he made in 2019 while dealing with other injuries. He remains under contract through at least 2022 with a pre-arbitration extension signed prior to last season.

Naturally, we get to wondering about possible trade activity. After all, the Phillies do have a large number of upper minors starting pitching candidates; almost more candidates, in fact, than combined jobs likely available between the Majors and Triple-A. Let’s take a quick survey of pitchers not named Nola or Wheeler to see if anyone could be a match.

Jake Arrieta

Arrieta missed time last year and is trying to recapture some value ahead of his probable reentry into free agency next offseason. On top of that, he is making $20 million, which would put the Yankees’ estimated payroll at a stratospheric $280 million (assuming they lose their case against Jacoby Ellsbury and stay obligated to pay him the last $21 million of what he’s owed). They’re already over the last threshold anyway, but taking on basically any portion of his money would ensure they stay there at the final tally.

As much as the Phillies might want to add CBT breathing room, this probably doesn’t move the needle for the Yankees. Arrieta would need, at the very least, to have a couple of strong showings this Spring to show he’s worth the risk for another team at any payroll figure. Banking on a bounceback with the team he’s already under contract with likely behooves the Phils more than clearing a reduced salary and adding a player unlikely to be a difference-maker.

Verdict: Not Happening

Zach Eflin

Eflin, who turns 26 in April, is the youngest of the current rotation competitors. The only pitcher younger than Eflin to make a start last year was Enyel De Los Santos, and EDLS’s rotation hopes are but a glimmer on the horizon right now.

Between the hyperball’s grip and aerodynamics wreaking havoc, and varying instructions on how to attack the strike zone, Eflin’s up-and-down numbers pretty accurately mimic the kind of turbulence he was probably going through last year. And it hardly seemed his fault! Now, without being forced to constantly elevate his fastball (and also a favorably redesigned baseball), hope surrounds Eflin. Depending on what you think about Arrieta’s potential, you might even call him the team’s No. 3. He’s got two more seasons of arb-eligibility. Not going anywhere.

Verdict: Nope

Vince Velasquez

Vinny is the clubhouse leader for SP5 at the moment, even if there’s an eternity of Spring appearances remaining to try and change minds. His athleticism has to be a curiosity to just about any team, and his stuff doesn’t seem to be diminished even if its peak potential remains as-yet-unrealized.

There are, again, some tantalizing peripherals that could make you think that maybe/finally/hopefully THIS is the year it comes together. Maybe the Yankees would agree and figure Vinny is worth the flier in 2020, with a final arbitration option for 2021. His salary ($3.6 million) falls way below Arrieta’s, which means it’d require less correction on the Phillies’ part. But again, is the CBT cushion worth it? Vinny also needs to deliver on the promise of his stuff and those scattered peripherals before he can be considered a target of significant, needle-moving value. This is probably another case of it being worth more to the Phils to give him one more go on into the summer than shipping him out now.

Verdict: Improbable

Nick Pivetta

He’s roughly a month shy of qualifying as a Super Two player and some two-and-a-half-to-three months from being on track to hit free agency after 2023. So there’s a service time “sweet spot” in the middle that’d preserve a fourth arbitration year and delay his free agency until after 2024. That’d require some combination of gaming and poor performance, but it’s worth pointing out.

Apart from the extended years of control, there may not be a compelling reason for the Yankees to go the Pivetta route unless they think they know the key to unlocking his true potential (much like Velasquez, only pre-arb for 2020). The Phillies certainly still seem committed to him, and external inquiries about Pivetta might make them more wary about that lingering nascent potential, causing them to double down and wall him off. At some point, the patience will wear too thin and the experiment will end, but it doesn’t feel like we’re there yet.

Verdict: Unlikely

The Field

  • De Los Santos, as mentioned above, might not even be a starter anymore
  • Cole Irvin’s best appearances last year were in relief, too, but he’s in line for a Triple-A rotation spot this season
  • Ranger Suarez is the same story, but it feels like his leash as a SP may be shorter than Irvin’s
  • JoJo Romero, Ramon Rosso, and Damon Jones all have varying levels of projectability, none has pitched in the Majors, and all struggled at Triple-A in 2019

None of the above comes off as a palatable solution for immediate MLB starts. If anything, they’d be accessory to a separate deal, and might enter the rotation mix later on as an aftereffect of that.

Verdict: Six whiffs

There’s really no good match here. The Phillies have quantity for internal battles, but the conditions are far from Goldilocks if we’re thinking about trading one (or more) away and thinning the herd. Maybe the two find their situations changed enough to revisit the conversation around June or July, but before the start of the season, it’s doubtful the Yankees look to the Phillies to help replace their fallen ace for the start of the year.