It’s always a bit of a shock to the system when you’re scrolling the transaction wire and you realize a familiar name, seemingly in the midst of their prime, was the corresponding move for a top prospect’s rise.
Then again, there has never been a larger number of effective bullpen arms at any time than what we’ve seen in 2021, so it makes sense some fungible former stars could be on the open market.
One bad season in four campaigns does not a “bad reliever” make.
Need evidence that a quick bounce-back can be possible if a reliever with an impressive track record has maintained his underlying metrics?
Look no further than recent Yankees favorite Clay Holmes, who seems to have rehabilitated his season swiftly after joining the Bronx Bombers. Could Wendelken have been next in line to rediscover his own stuff? He should’ve been!
Instead, the lowly Diamondbacks nabbed Wendelken thanks to their awful record, despite an obvious need in New York (and just as Holmes hit the COVID IL himself).
The Yankees could have really used reliever JB Wendelken.
Wendelken’s 2021 hasn’t been particularly pretty, especially with an elevated 1.680 WHIP, but his FIP remains consistent with his previous good work (3.69 this season, 3.07 in the shortened 2020, 2.94 in 2019). Clearly, something’s been mechanically off with Wendelken’s bread-and-butter slider, as he’s rarely surrendered base runners in the past, and certainly hasn’t approached these numbers. In 2019, for example, his WHIP was a paltry 0.918.
Seemed like a job for Matt Blake, no?
Sure, relievers can vacillate between excellent and sub-standard from year to year, and perhaps this is simply Wendelken’s year to struggle. Isn’t the name of the Yankees’ game simply getting arms to eat innings at this point, though? Even a slumping Wendelken would have been an improvement over Nick Nelson, Brady Koerner, and the rest of the Triple-A lack-of-trust tree.
Perhaps nothing clicks this year. Perhaps it’s a lost season for the guy who had a top-seven-percent xBA and top-10-percent WOBA just last year. Even still, assuming the worst, an experienced veteran with a three-year track record is preferable to conceding automatic runs every time Nelson is forced to eat a sixth or seventh inning.
Despite having created plenty of unused financial wiggle room with the Luis Cessa/Justin Wilson deal, the Yankees didn’t get a crack at someone they could’ve really used. Arizona got a steal in a lost season. Confusing they felt like controlling Wendelken, but it is what it is.