Over the last few weeks, the Yankees have acquired Ryan Dull, David Hernandez, Trevor Rosenthal, and Cody Gearrin. None of these names are particularly exciting, but the Yankees’ front office has made its intentions clear: stockpile as many relievers as possible.
If you’re like me, you might be wondering why the Yankees are doing this when they already have an excellent bullpen. A bullpen that could add Dellin Betances, Luis Severino, and/or Deivi Garcia into the mix soon, mind you. But if we’ve learned anything from the Yankees this season, there truly never is enough depth. And, all of these relievers offer the Yankees insurance and upside.
Remember, aside from Betances, the Yankees have a few other major league caliber relievers on the shelf. Jonathan Holder, Stephen Tarpley, Jake Barrett, David Hale, and Ben Heller are all injured at the moment. None of those guys are game breakers in the way that Betances is, but all have some value in middle innings and/or low leverage roles. Someone’s gotta pitch in those situations, you know. For all intents and purposes, the Yankees have (at least temporarily) replaced those injured players with the arms mentioned at the outset of this post. It’s important insurance in case any one of the currently injured relievers can’t return this season.
These moves aren’t all about depth, though. While I suspect that’s the top priority, it’s evident that the Yankees think some of these guys have upside. Gearrin, the most recent addition, might have some room to grow according to Aaron Boone:
Boone wouldn’t get into specifics about what tweaks might be made with Gearrin, but there are “some things our guys have already seen that hopefully we can help him go to another level with.
“We think he can really help us, especially with his ability to get right-handed hitters out.’’
Dull could help too. As Steven wrote, perhaps his slider can be a weapon. That said, the former Athletic hasn’t been effective since 2016.
Hernandez was very good in 2017 and 2018, but has struggled this season. In the prior two years, Hernandez recorded a 2.80 ERA and 3.09 FIP in 119 innings. Those numbers essentially made him a top-30 reliever in the majors. Unfortunately, he’s been a far cry from that this year. Before Cincinnati let him go, Hernandez posted an ugly 8.02 ERA. Yet, his stuff hasn’t tapered off (in terms of velocity and spin rate), so there’s certainly upside here. The Yankees will have to figure out how to get his walks and home runs allowed in check, though. Those two things have derailed his season.
Then there’s Rosenthal, the former Cardinals closer. St. Louis let him go after the 2017 season, knowing that he’d miss all of 2018 with Tommy John surgery. His return to pitching has not gone according to plan. Based on the numbers, it seems like Rosenthal has no idea where the ball is going. The Nationals let him go after just 6.1 innings this season, in which he walked 16 batters, pegged 3, and threw 5 wild pitches. Detroit gave him a shot too, but his control woes continued (11 walks, 1 hit by pitch, 4 wild pitches in 9 innings). His numbers in Triple-A with both clubs are ugly too. It seems like a longshot that the Yankees can right the ship with Rosenthal, but it’s a no risk gamble to sign a former elite reliever to a minor league deal.
While these new additions allow the Yankees to hedge against their currently injured relief crop not returning, these transactions could also help the Bombers’ current slate of relief arms. Right now, Adam Ottavino and Tommy Kahnle are on track to appear in 73 games while Zack Britton is on pace to pitch in 68. That’s a heavy workload for three guys who will be relied upon a lot in the postseason. The Yankees will need to taper all of their workloads in September and expanded rosters will certainly help. That said, the Yankees need cromulent relievers to do so. These recent signings could ameliorate that need.
Now, chances are that none of these relievers amount to much more than filler for the Yankees. That said, there’s really no harm in seeing what any of them might have left in the tank. Rosters expand next week which will allow the Yankees to dole out opportunities to these new pitchers.