The New York Yankees, overcoming the seemingly endless injuries and setbacks to still hold a playoff spot entering the All-Star break. Still, as a contending team nearing the MLB Trade Deadline, there are upgrades to be made, and some of those upgrades may come at an expensive price. Struggling starting pitcher Luis Severino may be one of the assets shipped out of town towards the end of the month, a decision that will not come lightly.
Severino was originally signed by the New York Yankees all the way back in 2011, and has been with the big league club since 2015, save for a 2020 injury. Since his All-Star season in 2018, Severino has struggled to keep himself healthy and his performance consistent, with his 19 starts in 2022 serving as the high-water mark. Entering the All-Star Break, Severino’s 2023 season has been a colossal failure, with a 7.38 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 42.2 innings. Severino’s Baseball Savant page is full of more blue than New York election results. His last start, seven earned runs across 2.2 innings on Thursday, drew the ire of Yankees fans all around.
So why would the New York Yankees entertain a trade involving Luis Severino?
Clearly, they would be selling low on a once-untouchable player, likely limiting their return. Let’s start with the good news: Severino’s fastball is still hard and spins well, actually averaging more velocity than last season. A late start to his season could partially be to blame for the poor performance, but the underlying metrics are not strong either. Severino’s expected ERA is slightly better than his actual ERA, but is still an ugly 6.97. The righty is throwing a ton of fastballs, which does not make much sense given that batters own a .604 slugging percentage against it. Will a team look at Severino and see a pitch-mix alteration? Maybe, but there are not a ton of better options. The changeup has performed solidly, yielding a .256 batting average, but a .246 expected batting average. While still not spectacular, the changeup is Severino’s best performing pitch.
The other tricky aspect to a potential Severino trade is the fact that he becomes a free agent after this season. Ensuring a relevant return would likely require attaching a decent prospect, or Severino’s new team working out an extension. The second scenario would require finding a trading partner also in contention, and likely dealing from a surplus. The Chicago Cubs are an interesting hypothetical. If the team chooses to move Marcus Stroman, another potential free agent, their return for him should be solid. Packaging one or two lower-level prospects from their stacked farm system along with a lefty-hitting outfielder (Cody Bellinger?) could net the Cubs a Stroman replacement. Lifting Bellinger and a prospect from Chicago might require another prospect attached to Severino, but the price will likely be worth it. Bellinger is outperforming his batted ball metrics, and even if those numbers regress, Bellinger provides elite defense with left-handed pop, something sorely missing from the Yankees’ lineup.
San Francisco could also be a landing spot for Severino, with Michael Conforto’s expiring contract a possibility. Conforto is walking at a high rate, and has played fine in a small sample in left field. With the Giants also fighting for their playoff lives, recouping major league talent at the plate will also be key to finishing the deal. Willie Calhoun is currently on the Injured List, but has performed at a roughly league average rate while walking a ton in his limited playing time. Could Calhoun and Severino net Conforto? It is not out of the question, but may take a prospect or an extension for Severino to complete the deal.
Severino unfortunately seems lost on the mound, and has not looked the same since various injuries have cost him time. It might be beneficial for both sides to move on at this point in the relationship.