Coming off their worst season in three decades, the New York Yankees now face bad news with Opening Day a little more than two weeks away. Staff ace and reigning AL Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole is expected to miss at least 1-2 months with an elbow injury. He’s going to visit with well-known surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache to map out a plan for what is next.

Cole, 33, has been one of the sport’s best and most durable pitchers over the last eight years. He has not missed a start for something other than COVID since 2016, when elbow inflammation sidelined him for approximately six weeks spread across two separate injured list stints while with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Something similar this time around would qualify as good news.

Gerrit Cole injury: Where could Yankees turn internally, in free agency,  trade with ace likely out for months -

The Yankees have a very high-risk, high-upside rotation around Cole, who they’ve leaned on as a stabilizing force the last four years. Every fifth day, Boone and the Yankees could count on Cole to soak up six-plus innings and spare the bullpen. Their remaining starters come with injury (Nestor Cortes, Carlos Rodón, Marcus Stroman) and/or workload (Clarke Schmidt) concerns.

In all likelihood, the Yankees will not make any decisions regarding their rotation until they get word on the extent of Cole’s injury. What options do they have? Here’s where the Yankees could go in the event Cole misses even a little time early in the season.

Gerrit Cole's Cy Young Chances in Jeopardy? Yankees Ace's Injury Absence  Dashes Award Hopes - EssentiallySports

Blake Snell, the reigning NL Cy Young winner, and Jordan Montgomery, a former Yankee, remain unsigned, and it’s really easy to draw a straight line from Cole getting hurt to the Yankees signing either one. For what it’s worth, the New York Post recently reported Snell is open to a short-term deal with opt outs a la Cody Bellinger and Matt Chapman, while Montgomery is still seeking a long-term contract. Cole, Snell, and Montgomery (and Bellinger and Chapman) are all Scott Boras clients.

One potential issue here is the competitive balance tax. The Yankees have a $308 million payroll for CBT purposes, per FanGraphs, so they are well over the $297 million top threshold (the “Steven Cohen tax”). Because this will be their third straight year paying CBT, they are taxed 110% on every dollar over $297 million. Sign Snell to, say, a $30 million per year contract, and that $30 million will come with an additional $33 million in CBT. Are the Yankees comfortable adding $60-plus-million to payroll to add a starter?

Report: Yankees ace Gerrit Cole (elbow) out 1-2 months to start season |  Reuters

Lower-cost starters like Mike Clevinger, Michael Lorenzen, Noah Syndergaard, and former Yankee Domingo Germán are available as free agents as well. None would provide the impact of Snell or Montgomery (or Cole), but they would provide rotation depth and innings, which is something the Yankees could use. Point is, these are the Yankees and the easiest solution is throwing money at the problem. Montgomery and Snell are out there waiting to be signed.