A great rotation can close the door, but a stellar bullpen can ensure it stays locked.
The MLB offseason has seemingly reached a stalemate. Some big ticket free agents such as Shohei Ohtani, Aaron Nola, and Yoshinobu Yamamoto have already signed long term deals. But significant starters like Blake Snell and former Yankee Jordan Montgomery are still available.
While the New York Yankees could (and likely should) make a run at signing either Montgomery or Snell (even after securing Marcus Stroman), there is another way to add elite pitching to their roster. The Bombers could opt to acquire bullpen pieces through both trades and the free agent market. Doing so may not “cure” an incomplete rotation, but it could keep the team competitive through injuries and rough starts.
Last season, New York’s bullpen posted a 3.34 ERA. This was baseball’s best mark, but without Michael King and others in 2024, there is no guarantee that they will be as strong without some adjustments.
The free agent market does not have a plethora of marquee relief pitchers available. Josh Hader may be out of New York’s preferred price range, but Jordan Hicks felt like he could make a serious impact on a team with a rotation that may be limited at times next season -- at least, until we learned that he, too, prefers to be a starter and join the Giants.
That doesn't mean the market is devoid of bullpen options, though. Hector Neris, recently of the Astros, was connected to the Yankees on Saturday. Wandy Peralta is out there. Robert Stephenson can be had. So can Hader, if the Yankees want to pony up.
Yankees should consider signing super bullpen after losing Jordan Hicks
(Hicks would've been nice, though. Watching that video stings.)
At this moment, the Yankees have not yet reached a reunion with Wandy Peralta. If they are unable to bring him back, adding an arm of Hicks' caliber seems like a logical next step. Acquiring both players would be ideal, but Brian Cashman and the rest of the front office may choose to save money and continue building through both trades and the development of prospects.
As far as the trade market goes, New York added former Los Angeles Dodger Victor González earlier this winter, and could potentially bolster their depth with another trade. Some have suggested that Cleveland Guardians closer Emmanuel Clase may be available.
Fans have seen just how “hot and cold” Clay Holmes runs as an everyday closer. Perhaps adding Clase to the fold could take some pressure off of the 30-year-old reliever. Such a trade would also allow Jonathan Loáisiga to find a home in the seventh inning, assuming he returns from injury.
In a perfect world, New York addresses their starting rotation before strengthening an already competitive bullpen. But, as we’ve reached the awkward stages of the offseason, it may be beneficial for them to double down on one of 2023’s bright spots if all else fails.