Well, that’s not good. Cross your fingers that there’s no structural damage, but it seems highly unlikely that Wilson will pitch in the Bronx to start the season. An injured list stint appears in order.
Wilson joins Zack Britton in the bullpen’s walking wounded, leaving yet another opening in the bullpen. There appears to be three spots up for grabs, with one all but certainly going to Lucas Luetge.
Earlier: Here’s some not so good news with a little over a week left until the season’s opener. Lefty reliever Justin Wilson called for the Yankees’ training staff after throwing a fastball on his 17th pitch of tonight’s game and left immediately.
The lefty was really struggling on the mound tonight, for what it’s worth. His fastball velo maxed out at 92.7 (he averaged 95 last year) and he got knocked around, including a homer surrendered to Didi Gregorius. You can see the not-so-great velocity chart from tonight below.
Newbie Darren O’Day sure knew how to endear himself to a fanbase, huh? There clearly was some intent in that comment early this month. As you may recall, Rays’ manager Kevin Cash touted his stable of guys who throw 98 last year in response to the beef the Yankees and Rays had. It sounded a bit threatening after Aroldis Chapman threw some chin music to Mike Brosseau. Granted, the Rays got the last laugh. It’s a new year though, and this bullpen is clearly pretty good, as O’Day said.
Although Aroldis Chapman‘s high octane fastball is no longer unique among his peers, he’s still one of the league’s best closers. He’ll continue to blow his upper-90s heat by hitters in 2021, but that might not be his only big threat anymore. Sure, his slider has been effective at times in the past, but this year, Chapman plans to incorporate the splitter he teased last season. It’s looked pretty nasty in camp.
The Yankees initially acquired Wilson entering the 2015 season. He came over from the Pirates in a deal that sent Francisco Cervelli to Pittsburgh. Wilson did a really nice job out of the Yankees’ bullpen in 2015. He recorded a 3.10 ERA and 2.69 FIP in 61 frames, but was sent packing that offseason to Detroit in a deal that netted the Yankees Chad Green and Luis Cessa.
Wilson has remained a solid reliever since his first stint in the Bronx. Most recently, he’s spent the last two seasons across town with the Mets. While there, he recorded a 2.91 ERA and 3.62 FIP in 58.2 innings. He still throws hard, relying primarily on his four-seamer (94.9 MPH) and cutter (90.1 MPH). He also mixes in a slider on occasion.
The Yankees have a full 40-man roster so a roster spot will need to be cleared for Wilson. The Yankees may just wait until spring training officially starts so they can open a spot by placing Luis Severino on the 60-day injured list.
Yesterday, the Yankees reportedly inked veteran Jay Bruce to a minor league contract with an invitation to Major League Spring Training. Let’s talk abou the roster implications.
Before getting into that, I’ll say I like the move. Jay Bruce has been a personal favorite for a long time. I remember seeing him in 2008 when the Reds visited Yankee Stadium for an interleague series having heard all the hype about him. His career has been solid and it’s hard not to like this as a minor league deal, even if his fielding days are long gone. Onto the thoughts…
Bruce vs. Gardner vs. Tauchman vs. Allen vs. Ford
An early thought on Yankee minds when the news broke of the Bruce signing was “How does this affect Brett Gardner?” Given that this is a minor league deal and Gardner is likely to get a major league deal, my first thought was that it wouldn’t affect Gardner too much.
Gardner still has an advantage over Bruce in that he can actually play the outfield. And even though Greg Allen or Mike Tauchman are still around, they’re downgrades compared to Gardner. They may have steps on him in the outfield at this point, but Gardner is no slouch and can actually hit.
Bruce also doesn’t seem like a threat to Gardner or the outfielders currently on the roster. No one in their right minds would have Jay Bruce in 2021 as a backup outfielder expected to actually play out there in non-emergency situations. The one whose spot he’s likely to take is Mike Ford’s. Bruce has had some time at first base and is much more accomplished than Ford; his story in making the ML roster last Opening Day was great, but the results aren’t there and the upside is limited. Bruce is the better option.
But the more I think about it, the more I wonder if this does mean Gardner is gone. If you want to squeeze him and Bruce onto the roster–which I’m fine with–that would mean getting rid of both Tauchman and Allen, who are both option-less. The Yankees seem to love Tacuhman and valued Allen enough that they traded an actual player for him. Given those apparent realities, they might not be so willing to make room for a veteran like Gardner, who’ll push their luxury tax line to its absolute limit. It’s possible that the gap between Tauchman/Allen and Gardner isn’t that wide when it comes to a back up role. Of course, I think I’d rather Gardner step in in case of an injury than either Tauchman or Allen. But with the Yankees penchant for cost control, this may be the end of the line for Gardner.
If it is (and the Yankees make no other moves), the bench will likely be Kyle Higashioka, Tyler Wade, Jay Bruce, and Tauchman/Allen. Gardner instead of the last two probably makes the bench a touch better, but is that gonna happen? It’s looking increasingly less likely.
Maybe a reliever instead?
According to this by Ken Rosenthal, it appears the Yankees are looking to reunite with lefty Justin Wilson. When keeping the luxury tax stuff in mind, it’s presumable that signing a reliever would definitely seal the deal on Gardner’s exit. With the Yankees still looking to the fill the Tommy Kahnle sized hole in their bullpen, this move might make more sense and have more impact than bringing back Gardner.
After the Darren O’Day signing, the Yankees have a full roster. Signing Wilson would require a 40-man move right away. Presumably they’d shed another pitcher and I assume it’d be Albert Abreu. He’s out of options and has done little to prove himself. His arm is strong, though, so maybe there’s a trade out there.
Even though I’ve already penciled in Bruce to a bench spot, his deal means the Yankees can wait till the end of Spring Training to make the necessary 40 man move, if they do, indeed, add him.
This move may create some difficult questions for the Yankees, but it’s worth it. Bruce fills the role of left-handed masher off the bench (even in a down year, he had a 109 wRC+ against RHP and a .321 ISO) as well a backup first baseman and emergency outfielder. This is a low-risk signing that could reap big returns.