Paxton To Miss 3-4 Months Following Back Surgery

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.

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8 Comments

  1. DZB

    I agree with the thought that this isn’t such a bad situation. It is largely a non-pitching injury and doesn’t sound like it will have long-term consequences (as you might expect for something like disc fusion surgery or more damage-repair related procedures). He hasn’t been particularly durable, so limiting his innings may ultimately help keep him going strong later in the season. I mean, no surgery (and hence no serious health problem) is always better than surgery, but this doesn’t feel like a particularly bad situation

  2. Brian

    Now we know why a Happ trade never really materialized. Yankees holding back to see if Paxton would have needed the surgery or not. If Paxton was medically cleared and needed no surgery, Happ would be a goner now.

  3. Dani

    Ah sh!t, here we go again. Good start to break the IL-record in back to back years 😛

  4. Dave

    Oh s***, here we go again

  5. “Cefarino”? I don’t get it. Fill me in.

    By all accounts, this injury issue (and it is an injury, a disk issue caused by injury, not some kind of illness-related cyst that the twitter-“doctors” seem to think are mutually exclusive,) arose before the new conditioning, (etc.) crew were hired to change this kind of thing. Regardless of conditioning and prevention measures though, injuries happen and back injuries are BAD for pitchers in particular. Look at Kershaw. Look at Klubot. They signal the beginning of the end, or at least a departure from their peak. I won’t be drafting Clevinger in fantasy either for the same reason, even though I think he’s probably young enough to continue to bounce back. I have serious doubts about his durability and longevity because of the back injury, even though I suspect he’s got a lot more K’s in him before it’s a serious problem.

    I wouldn’t be particularly surprised if this is the death-knell of any chance for a Paxton extension, and probably kills his chances of any chance for a big-time contract for him in his FA offseason.

  6. DanGer

    Good reminder that us keyboard warriors only ever know a fraction of the story.

  7. chip56

    Mr. Brightside here: Paxton and German will be fresh for the dog days

  8. CountryClub

    At least the tweet they put out specifically said he’s expected back in the majors in 3-4 months. So, he could be back pitching real games in early May. That wouldn’t be awful.

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