What will Yankees’ bullpen look like when Chapman and Loaisiga return?
So far in 2022, no injury has held the New York Yankees back. After Thursday night, they rose to 52-18 despite losing Giancarlo Stanton, Chad Green, Josh Donaldson, Tim Locastro, Aroldis Chapman and Jonathan Loaisiga for varying amounts of time.
Also, don’t forget, guys like Zack Britton, Domingo German, Stephen Ridings and Ben Rortvedt haven’t even participated yet! None of those guys are key components of this roster, but extra bodies always help.
Anyway, right now, the Yankees have two key players on the mend expected back relatively soon in Chapman and Loaisiga, which will change the complexion of the bullpen once they’re activated.
Somehow, with patchwork efforts, the Yankees’ bullpen has only imploded a couple of times this season and the current structure is what we’d call “fine.” Could it use more help to avoid being overworked? Absolutely.
Unfortunately, such eventual reinforcement will create some difficult decisions for the Yankees. When Chapman and Loaisiga return, two arms will be sent packing.
On Thursday, the first domino to fall was Clarke Schmidt, who was optioned after his stellar relief effort in the comeback win over the Rays.
Projecting the Yankees bullpen after the All-Star break
Following the move, manager Aaron Boone said Schmidt will “build back up some length” at Triple-A. The right-hander is a starting pitcher but has been used as a multi-inning reliever during his first MLB action. Though he’s been successful, it’s evident the Yankees still view him as a rotation piece, meaning Schmidt might be with Scranton for a little while.
Secondly, Ron Marinaccio will be the next to go — the only other arm in the bullpen with options. When Chapman returns next week or early the week after, expect that to be the corresponding move. The right-hander has been wildly impressive in his debut season with the Bombers, but he still has some things to work on and the Yankees likely won’t want him handling a full relief workload at the highest level after barely pitching over 100 innings since the start of the 2019 season.
OK … so what happens when Loaisiga comes back, then? More than likely, it’s either going to be Albert Abreu, who was recently re-signed after being DFA’d by Texas and Kansas City, or Manny Bañuelos, the former left-handed Yankees top prospect who also returned to New York for the first time in a while this offseason.
Of course, these are the surface-level moves that are likely. As much as fans would love to see Abreu and Bañuelos carve out roles on the ‘pen, they’re the least influential members at the moment and are the weakest on the totem pole among those without options.
It’s always possible guys like Miguel Castro and Lucas Luetge are traded (though not entirely likely). Nonetheless, Yankees fans watched the team ship fringe contributing relievers Justin Wilson, Luis Cessa, Joely Rodriguez and Abreu out of town within the last year. It won’t be crazy if they decide to jettison Castro’s 4.15 ERA, 4.47 FIP and 1.43 WHIP or Luetge’s recently-improved 3.43 ERA, 3.13 FIP and 1.19 WHIP (he had a 5.84 ERA seven appearances ago) if the front office feels there are better options (or ones with more potential out there).
The best news of all, though? Chapman’s willing to take on “any” role upon re-joining the bullpen, which is what fans have been begging for the last year and a half. Expect noticeable changes for this part of the roster within the next 2-4 weeks.