The Yankees created some roster waves yesterday, and not just because they activated Masahiro Tanaka from the DL. To clear a 25-man roster spot for him, the Yanks elected to designate David Carpenter for assignment, the same David Carpenter they traded former top prospect Manny Banuelos to Atlanta to acquire just a handful of months ago. Carpenter was the unquestioned worst pitcher in the Yankee bullpen as of yesterday morning. His consistent inability to keep guys off base, strand runners, and prevent runs in key middle relief situations was a surprise and a disappointment to many given what he had done over the prior 2 years with the Braves. And yet I noticed a fair amount of criticism for the decision to DFA him around the Yankosphere and on Twitter yesterday. People referring back to the trade and how bad it made giving up ManBan look, people arguing that Carpenter's past results should have granted him more time, people bringing up Carpenter's "upside" relative to that of Esmil Rogers or Chris Capuano.
The idea of ridding your pitching staff of its least effective and least valuable member so that you can add one of, if not your best seems comically simple and easy to understand to me, but apparently that's not the case with everyone. If you honestly think that Carpenter should have stuck around because he was good in the past, I can't help you. That's the same line of thinking the Yankee brain trust uses when deciding to sign guys like Stephen Drew and Kevin Youkilis, that's all I'll say. But if you really need a better explanation for why the Yankees made the call to dump Carpenter yesterday than "Brad thinks Carpenter sucks", I think I can give you one.
What does every good bullpen need? At the most basic level, 3 things stand out to me: 1) A strong, reliable late-game presence, 2) Consistent middle relief, 3) Someone or someones capable of eating innings. The Yankees have 1 and 3 pretty much covered. It's 2 that's given them trouble and that's what Carpenter's role was supposed to be. That's the role he played in Atlanta in front of Craig Kimbrel and I imagine it's exactly what Cash and Joe had in mind for him when they got him. Carpenter was very clearly failing in that role, repeatedly, and that failure made him expendable. Bullpen lifespans can be very short in today's MLB landscape. Unless you've got a monster contract, you aren't going to be around long if you can't get outs and prevent runs.
But to get more specific, think about what is or should be more valuable to the Yankees in terms of their bullpen construction. To me, it's that innings-eater role that takes on a little more importance because of how little depth the rotation has been providing. Eovaldi and Sabathia are mostly 5-6 inning pitchers, Adam Warren has only recently started pitching into the 6th and 7th, and even Michael Pineda has only pitched 6+ in 5 of his 11 starts. Joe needs to have more multi-inning arms on standby to cover for shorter starts, overworked bullpen regulars, and the normal low-leverage innings that need to be soaked up from time to time. Rogers and Capuano have the ability to throw more of those innings, Carpenter does not. That makes them more valuable than him and grants them an extension on their eventual ticket to DFA turn.
To tie those two points together, think about the depth the Yankees have for those middle relief/innings eater roles. They've already started rebuilding the middle relief group with Chasen Shreve getting more work and Jacob Lindgren getting called up. They could get another reinforcement there in the near future when Chris Martin comes back from the DL, and they've got a bevy of upper-level righty relief arms that could step into an audition for middle relief work at any time. Jose Ramirez, Danny Burawa, Branden Pinder, Diego Moreno, Nick Rumbelow, Mark Montgomery, Nick Goody. Any of those guys could be slotted into the bullpen tomorrow and match Carpenter's sub-par performance. There aren't nearly as many who could get called up and fill a long man role, at least not as many that you could have confidence in.
Ultimately this wasn't a decision that was made based on who the better pitcher was . Objectively I think almost everyone would agree that Carpenter is a better pitcher than Rogers. This was a decision made based on team need, which is the way the Yankees should be making decisions. They have a rotation that doesn't pitch deep into games and could suffer another injury at any time. They need more guys around who can give them length and that's something Carpenter can't do. Had he been better in the role he was brought to New York to fill, it probably would have been Rogers who got the boot yesterday. He wasn't and it wasn't. That's how it goes sometimes for relief pitchers. Carpenter will catch on somewhere and be fine and I really don't think the Yankees will miss him. They made what they thought was the best decision for their team and I thought it was the right decision.