If the Yankees consider their rotation a wrap after signing Marcus Stroman, that means their payroll has tripped past the $300 million mark (something fans should not care about whatsoever). Once you reach that point, Prince Hal ... why not continue beefing up your super bullpen?
While giving Josh Hader a record-setting contract seems neither wise nor plausible, there are several other potential impact bullpen additions still on the market. Familiar face Wandy Peralta remains unsigned. Analytics darling Robert Stephenson, who broke out with the Rays, is also available.
But, most importantly, 100+ MPH sinker deviant Jordan Hicks entered Friday morning unclaimed. In order to secure his services, it seemed likely interested teams would probably have to pay $10+ million annually for three or four years, something the Yankees haven't really considered for a reliever since the days of Zack Britton and Adam Ottavino's three-year, $27 million pact. The final year of that Ottavino deal was, crucially, spent in Boston.
But just because this would represent a risk for a team that seemingly prints bullpen arms doesn't mean the Yankees weren't sloshing the idea around internally. Jack Curry noted on Friday that the team had had "a lot of conversations internally" about the idea ... which is fantastic, but they didn't have them quickly enough (or they resulted in a, "Nope!"). Hicks signed with the San Francisco Giants out of nowhere on Friday for nearly the exact figures that were estimated.
Oh, and one more thing: HE'S A STARTER NOW.
Yankees discussed Jordan Hicks signing internally, per Jack Curry
The Yankees and Astros represented the totality of Hicks' market prior to Friday afternoon. Was there a reason two bitter rivals represented the only teams whose interest was leaked? You bet. Square up.
According to MLB insider Jon Heyman's Friday notes, the Phillies, Rangers and Cubs could also have made "some sense" as Hicks destinations, after the right-hander spent the second half of 2023 in Toronto harnessing his speed. But none of those teams were guilty of anything but a logical association; the Yankees and Astros were the ones we know were mulling it over.
But were either of those two teams interested in Hicks, one year removed from a 4.84 ERA season in 2022, where it seemed like he was losing his grip on his trademark pitch, as a starting pitcher? At $11 million a year? Highly doubtful. Signing Hicks to fill a rotation spot wouldn't have fixed the Yankees' bullpen. It just would've created another issue and a significant uncertainty.
After adding Stroman, the Yankees could seek to trade off their active roster to obtain controllable pitching from either the Mariners or Marlins; names like Bryce Miller, Bryan Woo, Braxton Garrett and Edward Cabrera could all be had for an Oswald Peraza-inclusive package (or perpahs Gleyber Torres?).
Hicks' right arm is one of the very few things the Yankees can't replicate in their Bullpen Breeding Ground. You either have this much talent, or you don't, and the fireballer might represent the rare bullpen free agent worth taking a chance on. Unfortunately, he doesn't see himself that way.