Once upon a time, it seemed logical the New York Yankees would be choosing between two familiar bullpen options, Wandy Peralta and Keynan Middleton, to finish off their Opening Day roster. One was battling FIP demons, but had a longer history. One was a 2023 trade deadline addition (for some reason!), and might have possessed higher upside, but didn't throw from the left side. Neither should've cost much ... but who to choose?
The Yankees' decision came down on Thursday evening: Neither! They got neither.
File this "inevitable" reunion in the same pile Frankie Montas eventually landed in, because Middleton defected to the St. Louis Cardinals Thursday night, just one day after Peralta chose the Padres on a four-year deal with three opt-outs.
FanSided's Robert Murray first reported the Middleton deal, and while it's nothing to despair about in a vacuum, that isn't where the Yankees currently reside. They need a body, and they twice opted out of adding one this week.
Which relievers can Yankees sign after letting Keynan Middleton head to Cardinals?
Middleton was a popular target for Yankees fans mostly because they couldn't fathom adding just one player at a silent deadline, then letting that player walk. If New York clouded everyone's vision with Middleton last deadline, they must have valued him higher than the rest of the league would ... right? Wrong; they pursued the righty, who posted a 1.88 ERA in 14.1 innings with the team last summer, but were outbid by the Cardinals.
Of course ... there is the troubling reality that Middleton posted 4.94 and 5.29 ERAs the previous two seasons in Seattle and Arizona. Consistency has never been his major key. There's certainly a chance that this is not viewed as a miss by midsummer, perhaps even sooner if the Yankees strike again.
So, who'll it be? Will Clayton Beeter, Luis Gil, or Will Warren to pick up the slack internally? What's going on with Scott Effross' rehab? The market still includes names like Ryan Brasier, Jakob Junis, Ryne Stanek and Phil Maton. Will the Yankees pluck a former rival to fill the "veteran" role?
The only thing we know now is New York's bullpen will be occupied by one more unfamiliar name, and it'll either be a somewhat green rookie or a new import. It won't be Middleton or Peralta, which might look less egregious a few weeks further down the line.