The 2022 New York Yankees have a closer problem. They also have an offense problem, rotation problem, injury problem, shortstop problem, prospect problem, ownership problem, and GM problem.
But, of all the piled-up problems, the closer issue might be what requires manager Aaron Boone’s most immediate attention — at least, until someone realizes he’s part of the problem, too. The Yankees’ 2022 bullpen was once an embarrassment of riches, even after losing Chad Green for the season and watching Jonathan Loaisiga turn back into a pumpkin.
When Aroldis Chapman struggled and succumbed to injury, Boone was able to pencil in potentially the most dominant back-end duo in the league nightly in Clay Holmes and Michael King … before King’s elbow fractured on July 22, necessitating a second look at potential Tommy John surgery.
Since that moment, Holmes’ “tough stretch” before the All-Star break has morphed into something deadlier. Between that July 22 game, where Holmes covered for King and completed a five-out save, and Monday Aug. 15, the Yankees have only picked up two saves over the better part of a month. One came Saturday at Fenway Park by the skin of Scott Effross’ teeth. The other? Clarke Schmidt going three innings in an 8-2 game.
Holmes is no longer trustworthy, blowing huge saves during that period against the Royals, Cardinals and Red Sox. Wandy Peralta? He had a stretch of his own the defied logic a few weeks back, getting walked off by the Mets and smacked by the Reds. Effross? Saturday was great, but … can he do it again? Is it … Chapman time?!
All this has added up to a very predictable “Closer by Committee” for Aaron Boone, now that the first half’s most valuable reliever is no longer functional.
Yankees no longer have a closer after Clay Holmes’ struggles
"Asked if he wanted to be able to settle on a regular closer for the rest of the season, Boone was non-committal.“We’ll see,’’ the manager said. “It’s gonna evolve. I do feel we have a handful of guys capable of doing it. It will be great to get to a point to get Clay back in there. They’re all capable of getting back-end outs.”"
Now, the difficult question nobody wants to wrestle with: are the Yankees building a “Closer by Committee” because Clay Holmes is struggling, or was there a secret “Closer by Committee” in the Bronx all along?
Don’t believe us? Look at all the different Yankees who’ve secured saves in a season that was supposed to belong to Chapman yet again.
Before the end of the season, Zack Britton might return, and Ron Marinaccio/Schmidt will find their way back to the big-league roster.
But King and Green, two 1A closer alternatives, will not be back, and nobody looks like they deserve a Phantom IL Stint more than Holmes. It also, uh, might be a real IL stint; his release point is plummeting, a typical symptom of a tired arm.
For now, the Yankees will have to rely more on Chapman than they likely wanted to a month ago. But when he’s tired or unavailable, the committee will have to work together to name a successor, as they successfully did on Saturday with Effross, but have failed to do on most other occasions lately.