The New York Yankees’ chief concerns this off-season are the starting rotation, the bullpen, and the potential acquisition of a power bat. The issue that’s been getting all the press lately is their bullpen, and several moves have already been made. In this piece I will be taking a look at those moves, as well as moves I would like to see the Yankees make, and finally, we will look at the closer situation.
Let’s start with the past because it’s already happened. The Yankees designated right-hander Nick Rumbelow and left-hander Joe Mantiply for assignment, meaning they are not on the 40-man roster, but they are in the Minor Leagues. Those moves are not very surprising considering that Rumbelow is still recovering from Tommy John Surgery and Mantiply was claimed off waivers from the Detroit Tigers earlier in the month. It is also not surprising that Nathan Eovaldi was DFA’d because he is going to miss the 2017 season and he will be a free agent after it.
The Yankees also made their second trade of the offseason, sending left-hander James Pazos to the Seattle Mariners for prospect Zack Littell. Despite only giving up a pitcher who threw 8.1 innings in two years with the team, the Yankees got a promising right-hander in Littell. The 21-year-old was the #14 prospect in the Mariners’ system, and in the California League he went 8-1 with a 2.51 ERA, 8.1 SO/9, and 1.7 BB/9 in 2016. Pazos was lights out after getting called up in September 2015, but he gave up five runs in only 3.1 innings at the big league level last season.
Trading Pazos could foreshadow another move by general manager Brian Cashman. This leads me into one of the two moves I think the Yankees should definitely make. They should sign left-hander Boone Logan. Taking a quick glance at Logan’s stat sheet, you will notice his 4-11 record and 4.64 ERA in his three seasons with the Colorado Rockies. However, the 11-year veteran has essentially only pitched well with the Yankees in his career. In four seasons in the Bronx from 2010-2013, Logan went 19-7 with a 3.38 ERA and 10.3 SO/9. He led the American League with 80 appearances in 2012. In the other seven seasons of his career, he has gone 9-16 with a 5.26 ERA and 9.0 SO/9 with three teams. See the difference?
On top of that, he is only 32 and his last season in Colorado actually wasn’t bad. He pitched to a 3.69 ERA and only allowed 27 hits in 46.1 innings in 2016. If the Yankees were to add him, they would have four potential left-handed bullpen options- Logan, Chasen Shreve, Tommy Layne, and Richard Bleier.
Even before they sign Logan, or do anything else for that matter, the Yankees should re-sign Aroldis Chapman. This was the big move that was teased right after they traded him to the Chicago Cubs. Dellin Betances struggled late in the season after Chapman and Andrew Miller were traded, proving once again that he is not a closer. That’s fine; the Yankees more than trust him with seventh or eighth inning duties, but for whatever reason, he can’t close games. Chapman, on the other hand, is one of the best closers in the game. He combined to go 36 for 39 in save chances in 2016 with a 1.55 ERA and 90 strikeouts, his fewest since 2011.
Chapman will command big money, and the Yankees are thinking about trying to be prudent with their wallets until the 2018-19 off-season rolls around. But they can worry about Bryce Harper later. For now, if Chapman wants $100 million, that’s what he should get. Re-signing him would qualify the trade with the Cubs for one of the most beneficial for both teams in history, seeing as the Yankees would wind up with all the important players and the Cubs won the World Series. Adding Chapman to a bullpen that now features Betances, Adam Warren, and Tyler Clippard would not be as daunting as last year’s short-lived No Runs DMC, at least not at the beginning of the season, but it would still be really good.
There are other options available, but the Yanks should go with Chapman. Kenley Jansen is a very good closer, but the Yankees already know that Chapman can pitch in the Bronx. That said, if the Yankees don’t sign him for whatever reason, they should set their sights on Jansen. The other high-end closer on the market is Mark Melancon, but the Yankees should stay as far away from him as possible. The three-time National League All-Star and Pittsburgh Pirates’ single-season saves record holder has a 5.79 ERA with American League teams. Those teams were the 2009-2010 Yankees and 2012 Boston Red Sox. Melancon should stay in the NL.
The Yankees have also been connected to former Kansas City Royals closer Greg Holland. The winner of the 2014 AL Reliever of the Year Award, Holland was one of the best closers in baseball in 2013 and ’14. But Tommy John Surgery cost him the 2015 playoffs and 2016 season. Holland has drawn interest from many teams, including the Red Sox, Yankees, and NY Mets. Scott Boras is infamous for getting his clients as much money as they are worth (and sometimes even more than that), so he is not stupid enough to limit himself to teams that would guarantee Holland the ninth inning. While I think this would be a fine move for the Yankees to make, I feel it is a bit unnecessary. They don’t need a closer, even if they don’t sign Chapman, and they don’t really need a setup man either. Signing Holland will definitely be a risk-reward deal for whoever signs him, but the Yankees do not have to take the risk. They already have plenty of hard-throwing right-handers in their bullpen. And while I would not mind them making him the closer if they whiff on Chapman and Jansen, Joe Girardi would almost certainly try Betances and Clippard before he went with Holland in the ninth.
The Yankees have limitless options at closer. They could stick with Betances, which I think would be unwise. But he does have closer stuff, if not the mindset, and he’s saved 21 games the last two years. They could resign Chapman, and they have already talked to his representatives. If they decide not to pay him, they could pay Jansen. They have also seen Greg Holland’s showcase, and they are in the running to acquire him. It’s easy to forget just how good he was only two years ago. If they don’t want to do that, Clippard is an option as well. He had 32 saves with the Washington Nationals in 2012 and 19 with the Oakland A’s and Mets in 2015. We might have our answer sooner rather than later, but you know what my position is. If I were GM, I would sign Chapman and Logan for sure and see how much I liked Holland. Hopefully Brian Cashman listens to me.