Another important target of the New York Yankees offseason plan came off the board Thursday night, as lefty-specialist Boone Logan agreed to a new 3-year contract with the Colorado Rockies. The Yankees had previously expressed interest in bringing Logan back, and he becomes the third piece of the 2013 Yankees bullpen to no longer remain on the roster. Of course Mariano Rivera retired, and early Thursday, the much maligned Joba Chamberlain left the Bronx for the Motor City, signing a 1-year deal with the Tigers.
It was not an overly productive Baseball Winter Meetings in 2013 for the Yankees, as they watched several of their targets either sign with other teams, or become close to signing with other teams. Free agent reliever Grant Balfour, who had been rumored to be in the offseason plan, is in extended discussions with the Baltimore Orioles, Joaquin Benoit is rumored to be close to signing with the San Diego Padres, and the Atlanta Braves are looked at as the favorites to bring back lefty Eric O’Flaherty. Where does that leave the Yankees bullpen moving forward? Manager Joe Girardi stated earlier in the week that the only guaranteed spots in the 2014 bullpen belong to David Robertson, Preston Claiborne, and Shawn Kelley.
Perhaps one of the overlooked young arms who could be considered for the now vacant lefty-specialist role is Cesal Cabral. While he only has 3.2 innings pitched at the Major League level, the scouting report shows promise. Cabral has four pitches, including a devastating circle change-up that has downward movement. His fastball sits between 88-92 mph and tops out around 94 mph. Cabral stands at 6’3″ and has filled out nicely over the past couple of seasons. Along with the fastball and change-up, he features a curveball and slider. In 8 games of work (an extremely small sample size), he allowed a .125 batting average to lefties, while right-handed hitters hit .400. While the sample is small, it is apparent to Yankee brass, that Cabral’s role if he can crack the big league roster, will be as the lefty on lefty specialist.
Cabral brings several advantages to the table to make his case for consideration. Along with the ability to get left-handed hitters out consistently, he injects youth onto a roster that is a touch long in the tooth, as he will turn 25 in February. He is under team control for the foreseeable future, not being arbitration-eligible until 2016, and not eligible for free agency until 2019. If he can remain healthy, Cabral could become a controllable, vital piece for the Yankees bullpen for the next several seasons. David Huff will also get consideration for this role as well.
If the Yankees choose to go in another direction, the pickings are getting slim as known quantities continue to come off the free agent board. Along with O’ Flaherty, who remains unsigned as of this moment, other options the Yankees may look at include aging fireballer Matt Thornton, who split time last season between the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox, Mike Gonzalez who finished 2013 with the Milwaukee Brewers, and even J.P. Howell, who is currently in negotiations with several teams.
The Yankees have other pieces to figure out before opening day in their bullpen, but they cannot overlook the importance of a lock down left-handed specialist.