After Domingo Germán was placed on administrative leave on September 19 -- as Major League Baseball began to investigate a violation of the league's domestic violence policy three days prior -- it was unclear how long the Yankees would be without their young right-hander in 2020.
On Thursday, New York learned Germán will miss the first 63 games of the 2020 season as part of an 81-game suspension -- the fourth-longest punishment under the Major League Baseball’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy. He had already served 18 games of the suspension this past season -- nine during the regular season and nine during the Yankees' postseason run.
Germán, 27, agreed not to appeal the suspension. He will be eligible to return to the big-league roster, at the earliest, on June 5 -- when the Yankees are scheduled to host the Rays in the Bronx. Germán will be eligible for the 2020 postseason.
In a statement, the Yankees acknowledged the severity of the matter while praising Major League Baseball for its work to prevent future domestic violence incidents. "We are encouraged by Domingo’s acceptance of his discipline, and we sincerely hope this indicates a commitment to making a meaningful and positive change in his personal conduct."
As he takes the necessary steps to return to the field -- participating in treatment programs and contributing monetarily to non-profit organizations during his suspension -- New York will be without their most successful starter from this past year.
In 2019, Germán's first season in the Majors with more than 100 innings pitched, the right-hander led the club with 18 wins -- factoring in just four losses, his .818 win-loss percentage was the best in all of baseball.
While the right-hander tossed just 143 innings in 24 starts, his 18 victories were tied for fourth among the league's best starting pitchers. Each of the five other starters with 18-or-more wins had thrown over 200 innings and started over 33 games. In other words, despite being unable to finish the season, he showed immense potential to win games.
Wins don't tell the whole story. So, let's play devil's advocate for a moment.
The Yankees offense seemed to love it when Germán was on the mound, as the right-hander had an average run support of 6.33 per game. In order to qualify and be featured on the 'runs scored' leaderboard, a player has to average at least one inning pitched for every game his team has played. Germán didn't qualify, but his 6.33 would have been the eighth-best average run support in all of baseball.
So, is it possible Germán was simply taking advantage of his team's high-octane offense?
Of his 24 games started, the Yanks scored six or more runs 11 times -- in those games, the right-hander was a perfect 9-0. In fact, factoring in contests in which he received at least three runs of support, his record was 16-0 (accounting for all 16 of his victories as a starter).
When Germán had fewer than two runs scored behind him, he was 0-4 with a 7.06 ERA. You can't fault him for winning the games where his offense excelled -- those are games where he is supposed to win -- but not once did he pitch his way to victory when his club's offense was struggling.
To put that into perspective, Cole was also winless when his team scored less than two runs in 2019 (0-3). But Cole had an ERA of 2.52 in those contests, keeping his team in striking distance.
No matter how you look at it, Germán had a tremendous season and is poised to build upon his breakout performance moving forward. He posted a 4.03 ERA in 2019 while striking out 153 batters, finishing the season with a 1.9 WAR -- 0.3 behind James Paxton for the most on the starting rotation.
The Yankees were aware months ago that the 27-year-old was going to be suspended for some length of time next season -- adding Gerrit Cole to the rotation, along with the return of Luis Severino, will certainly soften the blow of Germán's absence. He'll be back for the final three-plus months of the regular season, but now New York needs to decide who will hold down the rotation's fifth spot through the beginning of June.
New York has reportedly been shopping J.A. Happ on the trade market in hopes of freeing up some salary space after the addition of Cole's monster deal to the payroll. Happ, who started 30 games in 2019, is owed $17 million in 2020 and has an option for another $17 million in 2021 with 165 IP or 27 Games Started this coming season.
In his 13th year in the big leagues, Happ ate up innings for an injury-plagued team in 2019 -- his 161.1 innings pitched was second-most on the Bombers (20.2 frames behind Tanaka). The southpaw, 37, had a 4.91 ERA to go along with 140 strikeouts and 49 walks.
Another option for the No. 5 spot in the starting staff is Jordan Montgomery. Montgomery -- who spent the bulk of 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery -- made his season debut in September, pitching a total of four innings.
The 27-year-old had his best season in pinstripes in 2017, pitching over 150 innings while maintaining a sub-four ERA (3.88) over 29 starts. Similar to Severino, who spent the vast majority of 2019 on the injured list, it's hard to predict what to expect in 2020 as those two hurlers return from injury.
That being said, a rotation -- assuming everyone is healthy come Opening Day on March 26 -- featuring Cole, Severino, Paxton, Tanaka and a mixture of Happ and Montgomery is far more formidable than it was in 2019.
Once Germán makes his return in early June, skipper Aaron Boone can potentially utilize all seven of his starters to ease the bullpen's workload and ensure his relief assets are fresh when the calendar flips to October.
Then again, one could be used as trade bait as the deadline approaches over the summer...
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