The Detroit Tigers upgraded their bullpen again on Wednesday night, acquiring left-handed reliever Justin Wilson from the New York Yankees in exchange for right-handed pitching prospects Luis Cessa and Chad Green.
Along with the additions of Francisco Rodriguez and Mark Lowe, Wilson figures to make Detroit’s bullpen as strong as its ever been in this decade, after seasons of postseason implosions and ranking 27th in ERA (4.38) in 2015.
The 28-year-old Wilson posted a 3.10 ERA in 61 innings, striking out 66 batters along the way in his first and only season in New York. The Yankees had just acquired him last winter from the Pittsburgh Pirates, sending catcher Francisco Cervelli to the Steel City, where he hit .295/.370/.401 and caught 128 games.
The trade comes as a shock to Yankee fans, who just saw the team ship another top bullpen arm, Adam Warren, to the Chicago Cubs for Starlin Castro. Regardless, Wilson was considered the team’s third-best reliever, right behind Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller. Now, Betances and Miller are the only solidified Major League relievers left on the Yankees’ roster.
However, the Yankees didn’t trade Wilson for a bucket of baseballs. Cessa, a 23-year-old Mexican-born righty, is a classic three-pitch starter, featuring a low-90s fastball, changeup, and curveball. He started the year in the New York Mets’ system, but was dealt to the Tigers as part of the Yoenis Cespedes trade. He thrived in Double-A Binghamton, posting a 2.56 ERA in 13 starts, but sported an ugly 7.24 ERA in 12 Triple-A starts.
Green, a 24-year-old from Greenville, South Carolina, was an 11th round pick of Detroit in the 2013 Draft. This season with Double-A Eerie, Green pitched to the tune of a 3.93 ERA in 27 starts and 148.1 innings. He features a fastball, changeup, and slider, and has decent command, as evidenced by his 3.19 K/BB in 2015.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has stated that both pitchers will start 2016 with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, though it’s reasonable to question if either of them will throw a single pitch in the Yankees organization. The team has yet to address its starting rotation, and most insiders believe that outfielder Brett Gardner plus a few prospects could net the team, at worst, a much-needed innings eater.
Those prospects aren’t necessarily going to wind up being Cessa and/or Green, and if they stay put, the Yankees will have expanded their starting pitch depth in the upper levels of the farm system, which is never a bad thing to do. Wilson, though a solid reliever, is not irreplaceable, and a team like the Yankees will certainly replace him before Opening Day rolls around in, oh, four full months.