Yankees Adam Warren: The Trouble With Being Too Versatile

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Yankees have two spots open in their 2017 starting rotation, and the competition is underway to fill them. One of the pitchers in serious contention has a problem, though. He’s also excelled as a reliever for both the Yankees and Cubs. It’s assumed he can perform both duties. Not so fast.

The Yankees have demonstrated their belief in Adam Warren on several occasions. But never more so than when they insisted that he be included in the deal that sent Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs at midseason in 2016. You’ll recall that this is also the trade that landed both Gleyber Torres and Billy McKinney from the desperate (at the time) Cubbies. And you’ll also remember that it was Warren who was sent to the Cubs in exchange for Starlin Castro the previous year.

Warren Is On The Yankees Most Wanted List

The Cubs got what they needed out of Chapman as a rental, but it’s Warren who is the swing man in both of these trades. And there’s a reason for that. Warren is a swing man in other ways too. He excels as both a starter and a reliever, and this presents a problem for both Warren and the Yankees.

Warren’s arbitration year is coming up in 2018 followed by free agency in 2019. Will he be the next Dellin Betances?

Because despite the fact that Chapman and other premier closers like Mark Melancon and Kenley Jansen are now making upwards of $25 million a season, the lure and aura of being a starting pitcher in the major leagues are still present.

The best that Joe Girardi could offer yesterday to the New York Post was this:

"“Adam will be somewhere,’’ Girardi said. “I don’t know exactly where he is going to be, but he is going to be somewhere.’’"

So, if you are Adam Warren and you believe in looking at the glass half full, you could rationalize and feel good in knowing that you have a job with the New York Yankees.

In the same feature story, Girardi also indicated that he intends to do what’s best for the team, whether or not it hurts Warren in his quest for a starting role saying:

"“I think you have to take a long look at it and decide what’s best in the long run for this year and gives us the best chance to win.’’"

While Girardi can’t be criticized for merely doing his job, the combo role as a starter and reliever is asking a lot of any pitcher, especially when you realize the stark differences in the two from a mental standpoint. Because preparing yourself to throw 100 pitches or more facing 20-30 batters is a lot different than coming in to face three batters in the sixth inning before handing the ball over to Tyler Clippard, Dellin Betances, and Chapman.

More from Yanks Go Yard

It’s also telling that the Yankees have been in this position before and in that case, things did not turn out very well. Yankees fans will recall that the team bounced Joba Chamberlain around in the same way until eventually, he proved to be ineffective in either role, and they sent him on his way as a disillusioned young man with no idea of who he was as a major league ballplayer.

The good news in the case of Warren, however, is that he appears to have his head on straight. Whereas Chamberlain was prone to shooting himself in the foot several times during his time with the Yankees, like when he thought it would be a good idea to bounce around on a trampoline he had installed at his home. After that, he fell and lay close to death before he was found and rushed to the hospital.

Yankees And Warren On Collision Course

At 29, Warren has, of course, a different perspective on his situation than the Yankees do. And they are not necessarily reading from the same page. Warren is in the middle of his prime years as a pitcher. He is eligible for arbitration in 2018 and free agency the following year. This year, his salary is around $2,250,000, which obviously is not starter’s money.

Moving forward, Warren can hope that the Yankees will reward him for contributions above and beyond the call of duty and not worry about those things, adopting an “it’ll take care of itself” approach (the glass half full again). Or, he can look at the horror show he just witnessed between his teammate Betances and the Yankees, and start to make a little more noise behind the scenes at least by demanding a real chance to make the rotation (the glass half empty).

Next: Yankees 25 Most Memorable Home Runs

These are heady decisions and either way both Warren and the Yankees will be affected. So far, so good. But that doesn’t necessarily have to last forever.