The Yankees front office has their work cut out for them this offseason with a hectic list of roster spots to fill and contracts to address. Don’t let adding a solidified closer get lost in the shuffle, though.
The Aaron Judge saga and the Anthony Rizzo chase will take priority, but adding a closer should 120% be in the team’s plans. The Yankee life of left-handed pitcher and former closer Aroldis Chapman has reached its final stop, after he departed the team in dramatic fashion as his fastball faded.
Chapman skipped out on a team workout, resulting in his exclusion from the American League Division Series roster. But beyond said drama, he also finished the season with a 4.46 ERA in 36.1 innings, giving up 18 runs and 28 walks. Let’s just say free agency may not work out in the Bronx for Aroldis.
My first pick of closer’s in this market would have been right-hander Edwin Diaz, prior to the New York Mets cutting him a fat paycheck to continue in Flushing. This by far was the best option on free agent list. Who’s next up?
Yankees best free agent options to fill the closer role for 2023
The market for free agent closers is a complete write off; stars like Ryan Pressly, Felix Bautista, Jordan Romano, and Edwin Diaz are all under full control of their respective clubs. You’re not going to simply add a lockdown closer for money alone.
That said, there are two vaunted right-handers who are ready to talk dollars. One of these pitchers is a relative no-doubter, while the other is a gamble and a short-leash project.
RHP Kenley Jansen
Kenley Jansen is the best closer option on the market now that Diaz has signed his deal. The Wasserman-represented right-hander spent 2022 with the National League East Champion Atlanta Braves on a one-year contract, where he saved 41 games over 64 innings pitched with a 3.38 ERA. He recorded 85 strikeouts and 22 walks.
The 35-year-old brings 13 major league seasons to the table, finishing the majority of the crucial save situations during the recent Dodgers’ NL West dynasty. Jansen’s postseason experience would be a crucial addition to this playoff-built Yankee roster. He’s been through three World Series and six National League Championship Series. Jansen’s repertoire is still very strong, deploying three filthy options (a cutter, slider, and sinker), each with phenomenal movement and above-average velocity. He throws a lot of strikes and is absolutely reliable to secure tight spots in tough games. His makeup and resume fits Yankees baseball.
RHP Craig Kimbrel
This right-hander is an unconventional option, and can be controversial, but can be a good rebound closer for the Yankees on a one-year stint. Last year, Craig Kimbrel was the Kenley Jansen replacement in Los Angeles. The 34-year old was demoted from the closer role prior to the start of the postseason due to a poor late season performance, finishing 6-7 with 3.75 ERA, 22 saves, and five blown saves in 60 innings. Kimbrel gave up a total of 51 hits, 31 runs, and walked 28 batters. You may wonder, why this guy?
In 2022, his fastball still held a max velocity of around 95 mph, with 2264 RPM, holding hitters to a .259 batting average. He can also mix in his curveball (2542 RPM), holding hitters to a .167 average on the pitch with a 10.3 mph velocity difference between that offering and the fastball.
Kimbrel probably won’t see much more than $4-5M for a year-long contract, and such a signing may be a good water-tester to see if he can hold down the ninth innings and get outs for the Yankees.