If the New York Yankees are diligent over the next couple days, they may walk away from the Winter Meetings with a blueprint of how their bullpen will be constructed in 2017.
Beyond those three, the Yankees have a much longer list of arms which include: Chasen Shreve, Tommy Layne, Bryan Mitchell, Jonathan Holder, Ben Heller, Chad Green, Nick Goody, and Richard Bleier, all of whom lack in either effectiveness, experience, or both.
That’s why after signing outfielder/designated hitter Matt Holliday to a one-year deal worth $13 million, the Yankees should turn their attention to constructing a formidable bullpen.
No Runs DMC
It wasn’t all that long ago when the Yankees had arguably the majors’ most prolific bullpen. The lights out trio of Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, and Dellin Betances came to be known as “No Runs DMC,” and combined to strike out a whopping 210 batters in 127 innings pitched before Miller and Chapman were traded at the July deadline.
Yankee fans would be wise to temper expectations at such a reunion, but that doesn’t mean they can’t come close.
After several months in the windy city, Chapman won himself a World Series ring with the Chicago Cubs and now finds himself on the open market as the most coveted fireman in baseball among a talented crop of relief pitchers.
Exploring the Market
Right-hander Mark Melancon recently signed with the San Francisco Giants on a four-year deal worth $62 million, which leaves Chapman and Kenley Jansen as the top remaining free agent closers. However, relievers such as Brad Ziegler, Koji Uehara, Jonathan Papelbon, Fernando Rodney, and Greg Holland could be had as intriguing alternatives.
If the Yankees decide that they would rather go the trade route, Chicago White Sox relievers David Robertson and Nate Jones and Pittsburgh Pirates lefty Tony Watson have all been hinted at as possible trade pieces, while current Kansas City Royals’ closer Wade Davis has surfaced in trade rumors recently as well.
With all those options available, the Yankees certainly have an opportunity to upgrade their bullpen and make it a strength once again.
The Yankees need Chapman, in the same way the New York Mets needed Yoenis Cespedes. After all, the flame-throwing lefty had success in New York, pitching to a 2.01 ERA and .179 batting average against with 44 strikeouts in 31.1 innings pitched.
The Yankees have an elite reliever in Betances, but as the team proved last year, it’s always nice to have one more … or two.
While signing Chapman would no doubt come with a hefty price tag, the closer would not cost the Yankees a draft pick, since he was traded to the Cubs midseason.
The Miami Marlins are reportedly in full pursuit of a top reliever, but I think the Yankees edge out the competition and sign the Cuban Missile to a five-year deal worth $82-86 million with an opt-out clause included.
Chapman and Betances would form a solid duo at the back end of the bullpen, but the Yankees could also choose to use Betances in a high leverage/multiple inning role similar to Andrew Miller after he was traded to the Cleveland Indians. In that scenario, the Yankees could rely on Tyler Clippard and Adam Warren to handle eighth-inning duties on occasion.
Clippard is not the dominant reliever he was as a member of the Washington Nationals, but the right-hander was still very solid in his return to the Yankees, posting a 2.49 ERA, .211 BAA, 1.22 WHIP, and 26 SO in 25.1 innings. Warren also pitched well in his return to New York, posting a 3.26 ERA and .250 BAA in 30.1 innings of work.
What the Yankees do need is a reliable left-hander to supplement their right-handed heavy bullpen. The Yankees would have liked Chasen Shreve to step up, but the lefty never could reclaim the success he had before a disastrous month of September during the 2015 season.
Left-handed reliever Boone Logan is another former Yankee who would be a perfect fit for the club. Logan has proven to be a dominant force against left-handed batters, limiting them to an AVG/OBP/SLG triple slash of .139/.222/.255 last season, while also displaying a knack for inducing strikeouts, 11.07 percent overall.
Logan’s ERA was a solid 3.69, but his FIP and xFIP are better — 3.23 and 3.37, respectively — and Logan would certainly benefit from leaving the hitter-friendly ballpark of Coors Field.
At 32-years-old, Logan is two years older than lefty Brett Cecil, who signed for a four-year deal with the St. Louis Cardinals worth $30.5 million, and is one year older than Marc Rzepczynski, a lefty specialist, who just signed a two-year deal with the Seattle Mariners for $11 million.
Logan will likely work as a middle-inning reliever who matches up better against lefties, but won’t be limited as a pure specialist like Rzepczynski. However, Cecil beats out Logan because of his ability to work multiple innings in high leverage situations, which is why the Cardinals paid a considerable price to acquire Cecil.
If the Yankees have the desire to beef up their pen with a quality left-hander with experience in the Big Apple, the team should be able to acquire Logan on a moderate two-year deal worth $13-15 million.
Foundation and Future
Signing Chapman would give the Yankees an elite closer that would allow the team to be flexible with Betances, and a reunion with Logan would give the Yankees a reliable left-handed option to pair opposite with Clippard and Warren.
A bullpen constructed with a foundation of those strong relievers would give the Yankees many options to close out ballgames, while also allowing some of their young and inexperienced arms to grow into larger roles for the future.