Yankees Top Priority Should Be Signing a Proven Reliever

Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s hard to imagine the Yankees re-assembling a back-end bullpen that rivals the overall talent and depth of last year’s lineup of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman.

If you’ve been keeping tabs on the recently commenced MLB free agency period, then you’re probably somewhat familiar with the names that make up the most wanted list of players who can add value to prospective clubs. If you’re a Yankees fan — knowing that the team is in dire need of pitching reinforcements, then you definitely have a target or two you’d like them to acquire.

After watching the Indians get to the World Series on the strength of their relief pitching, it’s safe to say that the Yankees would be wise to re-invest in a proven commodity or two that can close out close games — especially since their starting staff in ripe full of question marks pertaining to durability.

This fact is further exploited after taking a gander at the level of effectiveness from the hurlers that make up the free agent starting pitching portion of those looking for employment. When Rich Hill and Jeremy Hellickson are two of the most revered names available, you have to think twice about redirecting funds to a more stable investment.

By now everyone and their mother knows the Yankees are in a rebuilding mode. No one expects this club to compete until 2018 at the earliest, as GM Brian Cashman noted the other day. Then again, how many folks figured the Yankees would be in the thick of the AL Wild Card chase for most of this past September?

Adding any one of the big three closers this winter (Chapman, Kenley Jansen, Mark Melancon), to a decent — albeit interesting mix of middle relief arms like Adam Warren, Tyler Clippard, Chasen Shreve, Jonathan Holder and so on, takes an immense amount of pressure off the starting staff.

By shortening the game to say five or six innings max, you allow your high-priced arms to leave it all out on the field for a tad over half the game — instead of worrying about a high-pitch count (Michael Pineda) or waning energy levels that often result in gopher balls left high in the strike zone (CC Sabathia!)

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Yankees GM Brian Cashman recently told the NY Daily News: “Some of those names are pretty big, sexy names, so whenever they decide to make a decision to sign with somebody, it will always be a big story whether you’re Kenley Jansen, Aroldis Chapman, Mark Melancon, to name those big three. … When they sign somewhere, it will be a big story for the cities that secure them.”

Word has already leaked that Chapman wants a contract approaching the $100M mark. I immediately figured this takes the Yankees out of the running since these are the days of cost cutting in the Bronx. While I still hold to that notion, if the club can sway him or Jansen to stay around the $75-90M range, then maybe just maybe Hal Steinbrenner signs off on the most lucrative contract for a relief pitcher in MLB history.

On the other hand, Melancon should only approach the $55-70M ceiling, although this could jump significantly should some desperate club (San Francisco Giants) drop an insane amount of cash at the feet of one of the aforementioned names.

Though Jansen would cost any club not named the Dodgers a first-round pick through the dreaded qualifying offer, general managers around baseball know signing someone with the QO hanging overhead is still a risk worth taking.

“There’s an element of the law of economics from a supply and demand perspective, no doubt,” Angels GM Billy Eppler said. “You see the impact that they have not just for the role that they’re doing, but for the roles of everybody else. Everybody takes a step earlier in the game, it can ease the burden on the starting pitcher as well.”

Should the Yankees miss out on one of the highly coveted free agent closers, they could always look at Greg Holland who is returning from a year off due to Tommy John surgery, or towards the trade market where David Robertson and Wade Davis could be had at a reasonable price.

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“In some cases, guys will get paid, then there are other cases, there are guys on the trade market that are available,” Cashman said. “There are a lot of different ways people can go to skin that cat. I think it’s always going to be an area of concentration for clubs to collect as many quality arms in the bullpen as they possibly get.”