The New York Yankees revamped their bullpen at the horn this offseason, swapping Adam Ottavino for a pair of late signings in Darren O’Day and Justin Wilson.
However, neither of those two mid-to-late innings standouts is a long-term fit, and New York seems eternally infatuated with controllable and electric back-end arms.
Therefore, it didn’t take much leg work to connect them to the Texas Rangers, a team far away from contention and one they spoke to last season about Lance Lynn before that fell through.
Fresh off dealing Rafael Montero in-division to the Seattle Mariners, it wasn’t crazy to theorize the Rangers might be open to trading José Leclerc, their closer-in-waiting who’s under team control through the next two seasons before his team options arise for 2023 and 2024.
Unfortunately, Leclerc’s health has thrown a wrench into any hypothetical plans.
Turns out he’s dealing with elbow discomfort that could very well be long-term, which means you can knock another option off the Yankees’ deadline wishlist.
The Yankees trade rumors for José Leclerc can stop now.
Leclerc’s last full season — his age-25 campaign in 2019 — gave you every reason to believe a full-fledged breakout was coming. Despite the 4.33 ERA, he struck out an electric 100 men in 68.2 innings pitched, and sported a fully fine 3.59 FIP. As far as reliever fungibility goes, he wasn’t that far removed from 1.56 ERA campaign the year prior. After all, the whiffs were very much still there, and the FIP proved he was still controlling what he could.
However, the righty appeared in just two games in 2020, tearing his right teres muscle, and has now been shelved for an extended period of time with elbow discomfort this time around.
If Leclerc makes it back in 2021 at all, it’ll be as a mid-season acquisition the Rangers can sell to their fans, like the Yankees are currently doing with Luis Severino.
No longer is he an “under-the-radar” trade target for the Bombers. If you’re interested in those, may we direct you instead to the Pittsburgh Pirates, a team the Yankees have already dealt with this spring? 31-year-old Richard Rodriguez, in the midst of a tough spring, could be available from their bullpen, as could lefty Steven Brault as a swingman.
Of course … Brault is also hurt at the moment.
Let it be known: if you’re a Yankees trade target, even in theory, you’re still in danger of being bitten by the injury bug.
Not even Eric Cressey can save you now.