Earlier this afternoon, the Yankees announced starter James Paxton will miss 3-4 months after undergoing a microscopic lumbar discectomy with the removal of a peridiscal cyst. In layman terms, Paxton underwent back surgery. This is an injury that initially occurred during Paxton’s one inning playoff tuneup in Texas. If you remember, Paxton struggled in his one inning before leaving the game to what was initially announced as a left glute injury.
Paxton was able to recover from the injury to make three postseason starts. He received an injection before the ALCS and that was the primary reason for Masahiro Tanaka starting Game 1 of that series. Brian Cashman noted Paxton began to feel discomfort in his back a month ago during his offseason workouts. At the time, Dr. Andrew Dossett recommended injections and four weeks of rest. When the pain persisted, Paxton underwent the surgery. Here is a quote from Cashman:
We had to wait to see how it played out rather than rush to a decision. Surgery is always the last resort and the last resort takes time. We lost time on the playing side. We took the proper steps of the process to determine if surgery was necessary or not.Brian cashman
This is the primary reason why the Yankees didn’t complete a JA Happ trade over the winter. The team was monitoring the Paxton situation and elected to keep depth over financial flexibilty™. Cashman did acknowledge there was a market for Happ, but the Paxton injury concern prevented them from actively pursuing a move.
The timing couldn’t be worse personally for Paxton. The injury prone label continues to follow him. He has yet to complete a season where he qualifies for the ERA title. This is his final arbitration year so a big season would have set him up well as the top starter on the free agent market next winter. There are some who believe this may mean the Yankees won’t pursue a long term relationship with Paxton, but that feels premature. Paxton is a really good pitcher when healthy. Maybe the Yankees can leverage this into a cheaper deal once the season ends. We can save this conversation for another time. The most important thing for Paxton is a full recovery and a strong season upon his return.
The Yankees can easily survive this injury. Their top three starters are Gerritt Cole, Luis Severino (aka Louis Cefarino) and Masahiro Tanaka. You can do far worse than those three guys. JA Happ is presumably the fourth starter. The fifth starter competition will come down to Jordan Montgomery, Mike King, Deivi Garcia, Luis Cessa and Jonathan Loaisiga. At first glance, Monty would appear to have a leg up in the competition, but Brian Cashman offered this interesting nugget:
Montgomery won a rotation spot (in 2017) and he was a dark horse who was not anticipated at all. So who is to say that it won’t be Michael King or Luis Cessa or Jonathan Loaisiga or Deivi Garcia? We will see.Brian cashman
As usual, Cashman is pushing competition in spring training. The pitcher performing the best will win the job. It is that simple. Here is to hoping this Paxton news isn’t the beginning of another run of injuries this season.