New York Yankees fans have spent the better part of a year bemoaning the loss of Garrett Whitlock to the Boston Red Sox, a story you certainly know by now.
Blah blah blah, scouted him through Instagram, blah blah blah, only the spiritually-aligned Red Sox could see the special twinkle in his eye, blah blah blah, records were set (but Boston still has no idea what to do with him). Bottom line? The Sox got lucky. Really lucky.
Everyone was out to plunder the overflowing Yankees that winter, who were leaving several potential power arms up for grabs in a draft meant to spread things a bit more evenly between the haves and have nots.
That’s the case nearly every year. The Yankees draft and develop well, leaving them with an annual overload of fringe bullpen arms/recent fourth-round picks who they regrettably have to opt out of protecting. Sometimes, MLB teams go above and beyond to prick the Yankees’ balloon, like when the Reds took 20-year-old catcher Luis Torrens, traded him to the Padres, and watched him get stashed on the big-league roster for a wasted season to keep the transaction in ink.
So the Sox weren’t alone in attempting thievery during the winter of 2020, and it turns out the Cleveland Guardians might’ve been successful playing the same game.
As MLB.com’s Mike Petriello pointed out this week, Guardians right-hander (and, yes, former Yankee) Trevor Stephan has harnessed control of his splitter in Year 2 and has turned into one of baseball’s best relievers.
Yankees lost another bullpen arm in 2020 Rule 5 in Trevor Stephan
Now all that’s left is for shortstop Kyle Holder to reinvent himself as a flame-throwing closer like ex-outfielder Anthony Gose, and the Yankees will have really hit the trifecta of loss.
Through his first 10 outings, Stephan has maintained an 0.38 WHIP, the stuff of Gods. He’s also whiffed 12, and harnessed a splitter that previously hadn’t distinguished itself. But, as Petriello noted…
"It’s a little that his fastball is cutting an additional four inches than it was last year, and it’s a lot that he’s added two inches of drop on a splitter that he’s using four times as often (8% to 32%) as he did last year."
Luckily — LUCKILY! — the Yankees aren’t exactly hurting for bullpen help this year, and wouldn’t have been able to be fungible/replace Aroldis Chapman on the roster anyway.
But in case you’re still wondering why the Bombers bent over backwards to keep Ron Marinaccio and Stephen Ridings last fall, it’s because of thieves like the Guardians and Red Sox, who enter every Rule 5 Draft wondering how they can do exactly this.