Yankees: 3 mid-level relievers New York should pursue
The 2018 offseason for the Yankees has focused mainly on Manny Machado. However, another top priority on the agenda for Brian Cashman is adding to the bullpen.
While elite names such as Craig Kimbrel, David Robertson, Zach Britton, and Adam Ottavino are certainly the most attractive names currently on the market, there are many mid-level relievers the Yankees could pursue at a cheaper price tag.
As of right now, the only locks for New York’s bullpen in 2019 include Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Chad Green and Jonathan Holder.
There’s no doubt that Cashman will sign at least one, if not two bullpen arms, but that still leaves one open spot come Spring Training. That battle could be had between Tommy Kahnle, Stephen Tarpley, Luis Cessa and potentially Chance Adams.
Kimbrel is undoubtedly out of the picture, while Robertson, Britton and Ottavino are realistic options for the back-end of the bullpen. However, there are some competent relievers available that won’t break the bank.
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Here are three under-the-radar relievers that the Yankees could pursue this offseason:
RHP Brad Boxberger
Brad Boxberger would be a great fit coming over from the desert, due to his versatility. While he was the closer this past season for the D-Backs, the righty has plenty of experience as a middle reliever during his time in San Diego and Tampa Bay.
In 60 games during the 2018 campaign, the 30-year old pitched to a 4.39 ERA with 32 saves in 53.1 innings pitched. Additionally, the Fullerton, CA native collected 71 K (12.0 K/9 IP) and posted a 2.22 K/BB ratio. While he wasn’t spectacular, Boxberger still had respectable numbers.
However, there were a few downsides to the righty’s season. Boxberger’s 4.39 ERA was the second highest in his career (4.81 ERA in 2016). Additionally, he posted a career-high in blown saves (eight) and runs (30), and tied his career-high in earned runs (26), home runs (nine) and walks (32).
While those numbers may not be glamorous, what makes Boxberger stand out is his experience in the AL East. The righty played with the Rays for four seasons (2014-2017) and posted a 3.33 ERA and an 11.9 K/9 IP ratio while earning an All-Star nod in 2015.
LHP Justin Wilson
Does the name sound familiar? It should. Justin Wilson pitched in pinstripes in 2015 and was dynamite. In 74 relief appearances, the lefty owned a 3.10 ERA with 66 K in 61.0 innings pitched.
After the 2015 season, Wilson was traded to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for Chad Green and Luis Cessa. While viewed as a questionable deal for the Yankees at the time, it certainly worked out for both sides. With the likely departure of Britton this offseason, the Yanks are in significant need of a left-hander out of the ‘pen.
Wilson split the 2017 season with both Detroit and the Chicago Cubs. Check out these numbers:
- DET: 42 G, 40.1 IP, 2.68 ERA, 12 R (12 ER), 22 H, 12.3 K/9 IP, 3.44 K/BB %
- CHC: 23 G, 17.2 IP, 5.09 ERA, 11 R (10 ER), 18 H, 12.7 K/9 IP, 1.32 K/BB %
While certainly a smaller sample size while in Chicago, almost all of Wilson’s number was far worse in the Windy City. However, his 2018 season in Wrigleyville was much better:
- 2018: 71 G, 54.2 IP, 3.46 ERA, 22 R (21 ER), 45 H, 11.4 K/9 IP, 2.09 K/B %
It seemed that the 31-year old simply needed to become acclimated to Chicago. His 2018 numbers were right around his career norm, which is very encouraging. Wilson would provide New York with a lefty that can face hitters on both sides of the plate, as well being at an affordable price.
RHP Brad Brach
Similar to Boxberger, Brad Brach makes a perfect under-the-radar signing for the Yanks because of his history in the AL East.
The righty pitched for the Baltimore Orioles from 2014-2018, earning an All-Star appearance in 2016. From 2014-17 in the Charm City, Brach made 246 appearances out of the bullpen with a 2.74 ERA and 305 K.
Brach split his 2018 campaign with Baltimore and the Atlanta Braves after a midseason trade on July 30. Brach had a terrible first-half in Baltimore, but finished the second-half extremely well in Atlanta:
- BAL: 42 G, 39.0 IP, 4.85 ERA, 24 R (21 ER), 50 H, 38 K, 19 BB
- ATL: 27 G, 23.2 IP, 1.52 ERA, 8 R (4 ER), 22 H, 22 K, 9 BB
Again, while a smaller sample, Brach was clearly more effective with the Braves.
Brach has the proven track record to pitch in the AL East, and his 2018 first-half numbers shouldn’t deter the Yankees from considering the righty. He would provide the Yanks with another hard-thrower to pair with Betances, Green and Holder in the mid-to-late innings.