How The Yankees Can Fix Their Problems (Pt. 2 The Bullpen)
By Cary Greene
March 19, 2022
This series of articles are meant to be part of an outside the box piece intended to present some solutions to Yankee problems that might not cost Hal Steinbrenner much at all, yet wind up providing some phenomenal solutions for Aaron Boone and company. I call it Things the Yankees Can Do to Fix All Their Problems!
The first order of business was to tweak the starting rotation and there are two parts to my plan. Previously, I suggested moving Jonathan Loaisiga out of the bullpen and back into the rotation as the first part of the plan. This would be a way of coaxing a few more innings out of his valuable arm and even more importantly, making the Yankees a lot more difficult to deal with throughout the regular season and into the playoffs.
The Yankees would utilize a six-man rotation with Loasiga slotted in as a kind of “uber-opener” in the regular season. In this way, the Yankees could limit Luis Severino’s innings and they suddenly would have a much more imposing starting rotation. With Aroldis Chapman as the closer and a number of good relievers already in the bullpen, moving Loaisiga back to the rotation moves the needle ahead.
Next comes the three moves that comprise the second step towards tweaking the starting rotation and it doesn’t involve adding, it involves subtracting in order to improve the bullpen. Given that the free agent starting pitching landscape has all but dried up at this point, the next part of the plan I propose involves capitalizing on the market’s high need for reliable starters.
The first prong of the strategy is a surprise move that no one saw coming and it involves trading Jameson Taillon to a pitching starved team who desperately needs pitching.
In return for Taillon, the Yankees could target a high leverage reliever who can slot into Loaisiga’s late inning role and perhaps even close in a pinch. This move makes all the sense in the world because Aroldis Chapman is suddenly a huge concern in the late innings (38% of the batted balls that were hit off him were fly balls last year, 23.1% of those went for home runs – is anyone truly in favor of having no back-up closer plan in place in case Chappy falters?). Zach Britton will also not pitch for the bulk of the season, though he may return late in the year.
How could Britton return so soon? Don’t forget, relievers can rehab from TJS in half the time that a starter can. They don’t need to be built up nearly as much. In any case, with Loaisiga now back in the rotation, the Yankees will need to find a high leverage arm to replace him. Trading Taillon can probably fetch such a reliever.
Taillon, who would come with one year of team control, has an $8.4 million Trade-Value per mlbtradevalues.com and because of how starved the market is, his value in all likelihood will probably go up prior to the start of the season. If Andrew Heaney could fetch an $8.5 million one-year deal in free agency, I’m quite certain the Yankees could get even more in value for Taillon. He’s also clearly not part of the Yankees long-term starting rotation plan so why not move him now, while the moving is good?
Taking a page out of the Rays playbook, moving Taillon is an example of making a trade in advance of a problem, so that the Yankees don’t have to look for a closer at the deadline if Chapman is flaming out again and thereby burn yet another package of prospects due to poor planning.
The second prong of the strategy, if Hal Steinbrenner did want to spend a small bit of money on a free agent reliever, Cashman would also be wise to do some moving and shaking, though there are precious few quality relievers left to pick from. Andrew Miller might be worth a look, but Kenley Jansen also made a lot more sense until he signed with the Braves last night.
Combine whomever the Yankees can sign with whomever Cashman can get for Taillon and the bullpen now looks a lot more secure with not one, but two valuable pitchers added to its high-leverage team.
Now for the last prong of the strategy. This brings me back to the starting pitching.
Presently, the rotation is headed by Cole, Severino, Loaisiga, Monty, and Cortes Jr. It’s still too right-handed. The Yankees play 82 games in a ballpark that features a short porch in right field and an otherwise expansive outfield. The last thing the Yankees want is for opposing teams to routinely stack left-handed lineups when they visit the Bronx. Therefore, one further tweak remains to be made.
If the Mets could obtain All-Star righty Chris Bassett from the A’s for one very good pitching prospect and a Rule-5 pitcher who had a big season last year, I’m quite certain Brian Cashman could pry the available Sean Manaea from Billy Bean’s rebuilding A’s, for a fair package that wouldn’t involve any Top-10 prospects.
Manaea is a big, strong, 6’5” 30-year-old lefty who would be the perfect final piece to the tweak of the starting rotation. Manaea is a high strikeout, innings eating, high impact arm who had a 3.4 WAR season last year. If the Yankees could lock Manaea up on a three or four year deal, they would be creating a sustainable rotation that suddenly is very good top to bottom.
In my next piece, I’ll move on from the starting rotation and look at nine more things the Yankees can do to fix all their problems without spending much money at all.