As some of you may have already noticed, I like to think outside the box. I could have written an article about an A’s starter we should target or a Marlins starter we should get, but I came up with Luis Severino. It is unlikely the Twins would swing a trade with the dark side for Severino, but here is why it could be exciting.
Luis Severino was signed out of the Dominican Republic by the New York Yankees in late 2011. He signed for a bonus of $225,000. The Colorado Rockies were originally going to sign Severino for that price, but the Yankees matched the price and Severino signed with the Yankees since he liked them growing up. Severino has been with the Yankees ever since then, making his debut on August 5th, 2015, at only 21 years old. He made that start due to former Twin, Michael Pineda, getting injured in the previous days. In his debut, he threw 5 strong innings, allowing 2 hits, 1 earned run, and punched out 7 Red Sox.
Severino continued to pitch well in 2015, ending the year with 61.1 IP, and a 2.89 ERA. He also had a 141 ERA+ (100 being league average), but had a 4.37 FIP. 2016 was a year to forget for Luis, pitching to a 5.83 ERA in 71 innings. He was well below league average, posting a 74 ERA+. The funny thing is that in his dominant 2015 showing he posted a 4.37 FIP, but in his awful 2016 showing he only posted a slightly worse 4.48 FIP. He bounced back extremely well in 2017, being named to his first All-Star team and was 3rd in AL Cy Young voting. He pitched to a 2.98 ERA, 152 ERA+, and a much better 3.08 FIP in 193.1 Innings. He had continued success in 2018, pitching to a 3.39 ERA, 124 ERA+, and an even better 2.95 FIP in 191.1 innings. During the 2019 offseason, Severino inked a 4 year, $40 Million extension with the Yankees. The deal includes a club option for a 5th year, being in 2023. Then, the injury bug bit Luis Severino hard. Right before the season he was diagnosed with Rotator Cuff Inflammation, which knocked him out to start the season. He then suffered a Grade 2 Lat Strain which knocked him out for an additional 6 weeks. Severino did not appear in any rehab games until September. He made a few starts in the minors and was brought back up for 2 late September starts, the first being September 17th, against the Los Angeles Angels. He pitched 12 dominant innings in 2019, featuring a 1.50 ERA and a 304 ERA+. He made 2 starts during the 2019 Postseason, one being against our beloved Twins, the other against the Astros in the ALCS. During the 2020 offseason it was revealed that he would have to undergo Tommy John surgery to repair a partially torn UCL and they would also have to remove some bone chips. Severino was set to return in mid-2021 but was set back multiple times. First, he suffered a groin injury during a June rehab start, and then in August he was again set back for “not feeling right.” He eventually made his much awaited return for the Yankees. He pitched 4 games out of the bullpen in late September. He pitched a total of 6 innings and did not give up an earned run.
There is no doubt that when Severino is on, he is as electric as anyone. Severino was once one of the game's most exciting young arms, lighting up the radar gun on a regular basis. Now he is forgotten by many. He strikes out hitters at a high clip and walks have never been a serious issue. During his breakout 2017 campaign, he ranked in the 89th percentile for K rate, sitting at 29.4%. He also ranked in the 81st percentile for BB rate, being at only 6.5%. There are not any recent advanced stats to compare it to, due to such small sample size in the past few years. One thing I will compare though is his average fastball velocity. During his 2017 and 2018 seasons his heater averaged 97.5 and 97.6 MPH respectively. But during the 2021 season his fastball only averaged 95.4 MPH. It has obviously declined over the past few seasons, but that could go back up with stretching him back out into being a starter. The funny thing is that he used to gain velocity during the games. He would tick up 1 or 2 MPH on average throughout his innings. One encouraging sign is during 2019 and 2021, he struck out hitters over 35% in both years. That is likely due to a small sample size but even with a little decline it would still be elite. Below is his Baseball Savant profile for his 2017 season.
Luis Severino has an athletic build being 6 feet 2 inches and 220 pounds. He is a great athlete, and it doesn't seem like injuries changed that a ton. With Severino, you are getting a 4 pitch starter. He throws his fastball the majority of the time. His secondary pitch is his slider. As we all know, the slider is a pitch this front office really likes. His close-second best off-speed pitch is his changeup, and it can get very nasty. His last pitch is a cutter, which he throws rarely. His changeup is rather fast, topping out in the low 90's. He even throws his slider a bit slower than the changeup, averaging in the mid to high 80's. He has a good fastball that can run up in the upper 90's, reaching 100 MPH at times, which is rather crazy for a starter. Severino has the ceiling of an ace, but a floor of spending a season on the injured list. Worst case scenario is if he stays healthy is he can be a good bullpen arm. I would definitely be willing to take the risk.
Luis Severino is still on his 4 year, $40 Million contract I mentioned above. 2022 will be the 4th year and he will earn $11 Million. There is also a club option for 2023 for $15 Million. If Luis shows what he can do during the 2022 season, there is no doubt any team would pick up the 2023 option. But if he still has the injury bug, the team isn’t on the hook for any later than 2022.
A trade for Severino all depends on the Yankees. There is a very solid chance they wouldn’t even listen to offers for him, due to what he could regain. They made him untouchable as a prospect while they were trying to make deadline acquisitions for the postseason. There is also a chance that they would want to get Major League talent for him to boost their current team and be willing to send him away. The Yankees current rotation is headlined by Gerrit Cole, and after that there is nothing too certain. They have major league guys like Jameson Taillon, Jordan Montgomery, Domingo German, Luis Gil (The guy we traded for Jake Cave), and Nestor Cortes. All of those guys have had major league success, just many haven’t sustained it. They also have a few pitching prospects nearing the majors. A package that I could see happening for Severino could be Max Kepler and maybe another lower end prospect. Last year during the trade deadline, the Yankees showed interest in Kepler, but to no avail. Baseball Trade Values lists Severino at 11.4, and Kepler at 23.6 which seems way too generous. The Yankees do have a need for outfielders though. Currently on their roster they only have Aaron Judge, Joey Gallo, and Giancarlo Stanton. The Yankees do not have any top outfield prospects besides Jasson Dominguez, who is still 3 or more years away from the show. Giancarlo Stanton isn’t much of an outfielder anymore and will likely be a full time DH. Judge is capable of playing centerfield but Max Kepler could be a defensive upgrade. Max’s bat could really play at Yankee stadium, with the short porch in right. It would be tough for many fans to see Max go, but if it could bring a high upside arm like this, I would be all for it, even though there is high risk.
Severino is currently 27 and will be 28 by Opening Day, which is still fairly young by pitching standards. He has obviously been injured a lot during the past few seasons, but did show he could be a workhorse, pitching almost 200 innings 2 seasons in a row. He will certainly be limited on his innings in 2021, just to what extent? The Twins will likely have to rely on a bounceback candidate if they want to seriously contend. Severino is as much of a candidate as anyone, just prying him away may be tricky. I think he could be an amazing buy low pickup for the Twins, and he has 2 years of possible team control left. Obviously, this has a low chance of happening, but let me know what you think about it. Thanks for reading!