Prior to the 2021 season, the New York Yankees lost a rehabbing Garrett Whitlock to the Boston Red Sox, a team bereft of pitching that was willing to take a chance on an eventual bounce back. Once Whitlock emerged as a secret weapon in 2021 (of course he did), optics made it seem as if Brian Cashman protected Brooks Kriske instead, even though there were 15 different cascading decisions that led to the pair of maneuvers, not just one ripple effect.
All we heard about last summer was how stupid the Yankees were to leave Whitlock (a complete wild card, at the time) unprotected, giving Boston a bullpen ace so good that he was rewarded this winter with a four-year, $18.75 million extension that will keep him in place through the age of 32. Then, he was briefly made a starter, and got Joba Chamberlain’d into a few tough outings before a hip injury landed him in the IL.
Am I poking the bear by writing this? No! This has nothing to do with Whitlock’s performance, which was astounding in 2021, has been very good (again, except a few poor starts) this year, and might eventually lead him on a path to being an effective contributor with the Sox for years to come (though that feels less likely now than it did last fall).
It just has to do with how much pitching depth the Yankees have accrued and developed in the past 18 months, as well as the long-term deal Boston paid way ahead of time for Whitlock’s services, guaranteeing him a roster spot.
There’s a new and thorough argument for reliever fungibility cropping up every day across all parts of MLB. Even the Red Sox have randomly replaced Whitlock in the bullpen with a man nobody’s ever heard of named John Schreiber.
And now that Whitlock is something between a reliever and starter and comes with an expensive long-term deal, Yankee fans are still supposed to rue the day they lost him?
Yankees really supposed to regret losing Garrett Whitlock? We sure?
Now, of all the certainties in this world, one thing is more certain than every other certainty combined: there will come a random eighth inning in a random July game in a random year where Whitlock preserves a 4-3 Red Sox lead over the Yankees, and every fan from Woonsocket to Pawtucket will absentmindedly tweet about the Yanks’ stupidity while waiting for the Carrabis follow back that never comes. And sure, in the moment, falling to Whitlock will sting, just as falling to any Red Sox does.
In essence, the only reason Yankee fans should ever regret losing Whitlock is that he ended up in Boston, giving them one additional trustworthy arm (though still not enough, at this point). If he were on Oakland, Cleveland, Colorado or Triple-A Las Vegas, you’d never think about him again, since the evidence just keeps mounting and mounting that the Yankees are able to cover innings six-through-nine with strong options in their own right.
Jealously over Whitlock being gone when Clay Holmes is here is just jealousy for jealousy’s sake. Michael King has developed into Whitlock, JP Sears has covered spot start duty as well as Whitlock could’ve (historically well, in fact), Clarke Schmidt deserves an opportunity, Jonathan Loaisiga returns soon … is there anything else missing?
Oh, right. Look at Whitlock’s changeup, and tell me you don’t see Ron Marinaccio. There’s certainly the potential there.
Whitlock is, without a doubt, an excellent multi-inning swingman and a potential shutdown bullpen piece. The Yankees’ farm system is very healthy in producing that exact type of pitcher, however, and none of the ones in New York’s pipeline are locked down on long-term deals after being designed “The Guy” moving forward.
A healthy Whitlock would be occupying a place in the Yankees’ bullpen right now. He’d be standing alongside a fleet of similarly competent arms, with another fleet waiting behind him in Scranton. There’s just no reason to think about him right now with the current path this team is following … until the day comes when Boston fans impotently flood your mentions again, of course.