Brian Cashman’s latest sneaky depth signing could help Yankees quickly

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 23: Richard Rodriguez #48 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park on July 23, 2021 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 23: Richard Rodriguez #48 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park on July 23, 2021 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

Of all the threadbare patches on the Yankees‘ roster, the way the projected 2022 bullpen plan has twisted and turned around itself this season has largely gone ignored. When camp broke, Aroldis Chapman was the closer, Jonathan Loaisiga was the eighth-inning ace, and Chad Green and Clay Holmes were around to float below him, putting out fires with regular rest.

But in mid-July, Chapman’s a liability working his way back into form in whatever scenario Aaron Boone feels like trying on any given day. Loaisiga is back from injury, but looked nothing like himself prior to the IL trip (or after). Green is rehabbing from Tommy John. Holmes, who was Superman through his All-Star selection, had one of the weirdest outings of the year (that goes for everyone) this week that created his first-ever skepticism bubble.

And Michael King is doing anyone’s job on any given day, alongside closer/mop-up man/fireman/whatever Wandy Peralta. The Yankees’ bullpen roles … they’re nebulous! And that makes it easy to envision a late arrival or two playing a crucial role down the stretch.

Brian Cashman will peruse the trade market for relievers while he also eyes a left field upgrade and starting pitching option, but in past years, he’s typically found his targets not by overpaying, but by building up forgotten (or hidden) assets.

Yankees analysts have been focused on overturning stones throughout the league in an effort to figure out Cashman’s next “guy,” but at least one option joined the system last week and reported to the lowest levels of the minors to try to get ready to help sooner rather than later.

Richard Rodriguez, one of the most buzzed-about deadline candidates of the past several years, found himself up for grabs following an 80-game performance-enhancing substance suspension this offseason. The end result was the Yankees scooping up someone in July who they probably targeted in January, and as Cashman explained this week, they could reap real rewards quickly.

Yankees’ Brian Cashman could elevate Richard Rodriguez by end of summer

The instant reaction from most fans when the Rodriguez signing dropped was confusion only because the reasoning behind the half-season delay had been lost. The reliever tested positive for the performance-enhancer Boldenone in silence (while the world was distracted by lockout politics), served his 80 games, and will now build back better in the Bombers’ system.

When might we see Rodriguez? He’s a lottery ticket, at this point, though one who’s gotten results more recently than some wild swings Cashman has taken.

"Asked what made the Yankees interested in signing Rodríguez, Cashman said “the more the merrier.” After all, this isn’t the first experienced arm they’ve signed on a minor league deal this year.“Try to get as much depth as we possibly can, continue to turn it over, protect ourselves with some insurance policies,” he explained. “Some of them we cash in on and hopefully they help.”"

Rodriguez’s metrics plummeted in 2021 and he stopped striking batters out (a meager 42 in 64.1 innings), but he still finished with a 2.94 ERA despite a 4.04 FIP.

According to his ex-teammate Clay Holmes, Rodriguez is a guy who continues to defy the system and the underlying numbers. And if it works? It works.

"“He was another one-pitch pitcher with his four-seamer,” Holmes said. “Very deceptive. Throws an invisiball. Even with all these data and stuff — it doesn’t explain why he’s been so good. I’ve always been interested in him for that reason. Just a great guy to play with, a great guy to be in the bullpen with. I think his mentality was always something that a lot of guys admired. I’m excited for him to get back into the game and get back to where he was."

Best-case scenario, Rodriguez is the sub-3.00 ERA reliever down the stretch that Miguel Castro hasn’t proven to be. Worst-case? We never see him again, Shane Greene-style.

Regardless, it seems like a worthwhile flyer from a man who’s taken many these past few seasons.