The Yankees have many questions and available spots in the pitching department, especially the bullpen. Dellin Betances and Tyler Clippard are the only two pitchers that seem set for bullpen duty in 2017 at the moment. That all could change depending on how the rotation shakes out as Adam Warren, Luis Severino, Bryan Mitchell, and Luis Cessa are preparing for the season to be starters. Any or all could end up back in the bullpen, however. The Yankees have also been linked to Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Mark Melancon as potential additions. Any of those three obviously would be a plus to every pen in baseball. But beyond those three, there are several intriguing options out there.
At the top of that list has to be Greg Holland. You have to assume that scouts liked what they saw during his showcase last month and that he will have added the needed arm strength by Spring Training. He reportedly sat in the 89/90 MPH range during the showcase. His numbers weren’t good during 2015 as he pitched through the arm issues that resulted in Tommy John surgery. But from 2011-2014, there was no denying he was one of the top relievers in baseball as he compiled 256 1/3 innings of 1.86 ERA pitching with 12.6 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9. He could probably be had on a two-year incentive laden deal and would make quite a back of the rotation combination with Betances. Just adding a proven arm with end of the game experience could wind up with a very high upside.
Ziegler, a 37-year old side arming right hander, split time between Arizona and Boston last season. In 203.0 innings since 2014, he has an ERA of 2.53 and 53 saves. He is not a big strikeout guy with a career 6.08 K/9 rate, but his groundball rate of 66% is second only to Zach Britton the past two seasons. One big concern that I have is he has allowed 25% of inherited runners to score over the past 3 seasons. The arm angle would certainly make for a nice setup option in the 7th or 8th innings and could probably be had for 2 years/$15 million.
Hunter and the Yankees were nearly in agreement on a multi-year deal last offseason before he signed with the Indians. A back injury resulted in his release and he ended up pitching well after being picked up by the Orioles to finish the 2016 season. With a lively fastball, cutter, and sinker, Hunter throws strikes and gets his share of groundball outs. His strikeouts have held steady in recent seasons while his walk rate has declined. If the Yankees are serious about Adam Warren moving into the rotation, Hunter could be a reliable replacement. It may take a 2-year deal to get it done, but he would be a solid middle relief option.
One thing you can say about Hudson is that he is going to give you everything he’s got and then some. Hudson has fought back through two Tommy John surgeries to carve out a spot in the Diamondbacks bullpen. After a solid 2015 season, he struggled last season pitching to a 5.22 ERA. A FIP of 3.81 and the fact that he allowed 31 of his 40 runs on the season during one hideously awful 9.2 inning stretch over the summer show him to be a good bounceback candidate. Hudson strikes out nearly one batter per inning and still runs his fastball up to the plate at 95 MPH plus. He also features a changeup and slider. He could probably be had on a pretty reasonable 1-year deal.
Tommy Layne is the main lefty option leftover from the 2016 season, but I feel the team will look to the market for a lefty specialist. There have been many reports linking the Yankees with a reunion with Boone Logan. He has struggled since leaving the Bronx. Common thought is that he had a respectable 2016 after pitching poorly for two years. An ERA of 3.69 and FIP of 3.23 does not make up for the fact that he has allowed 33% of inherited runners to score over the past three years. There are a couple of better lefty options on the market in my opinion.
Blevins pitched to a 2.79 ERA with 52 strikeouts in 42 innings with the Mets in 2016. He is actually fairly successful at getting both lefties and righties out, so he could possibly be more than a one batter reliever. To me, his greatest attribute is the fact that he only allowed 13% of inherited runners to score last season. Out of 96 runners that were on base when he entered the game, only 13 scored. This was fifth best in baseball. What more could you want in a lefty specialist than to strand runners? Blevins should command a multi-year deal with this kind of success.
Yes, I know, he’s going to be 40 and really struggled to a 4.05 ERA over 62 appearances in 2016. He was still effective against lefty batters, but really struggled against right handers. Part of that could be explained by righties having a .412 BABIP against him. He still strands runners on base as he only allowed 17% of inherited runners to score over the past three seasons. It’s uncertain whether Lopez will retire, but could be a cheap option if he doesn’t.
There are some good options on the market regardless of whether or not the Yankees end up signing one of the big 3 closers that are available. The opportunity to piece together a solid bullpen is certainly available depending on the route the team wants to take.