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  • E.J. Fagan

The Yankees Need a Bunch of Relief Pitchers

by EJ Fagan

May 29, 2024

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NOTE: The following comes from EJ Fagan's substack page and is shared with permission. This was published a few days ago so the stats don't include the last few games.


Please check out EJ's substack page for more great articles.

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It was a little struck by the Yankees bullpen usage during last Sunday’s game against the Padres. The Yankees were up 1-0 in the 6th inning. Clark Schmidt allowed the first two runners to reach, so it was time to pull him. Who did Aaron Boone bring on to try and hold the lead, with an upcoming off day? Victor Gonzalez.


Victor Gonzalez is not pitching well in 2024. The Yankees acquired him as essentially a DFA claim from the Dodgers early in the offseason. Maybe Brian Cashman had some hope that Matt Blake could turn him into another Wandy Peralta, but it hasn’t worked. He currently has a 3.3 K/9.


Gonzalez predictably allowed a bunch of balls in play. By the end of the inning, the Padres scored four runs.


I don’t want to criticize Aaron Boone too much here. Luke Weaver was unavailable after throwing 41 pitches on Saturday. Maybe he should have brought in Tommy Kahnle in that situation, but he was probably saving him for the 8th inning. Boone didn’t have a lot of good options.


The reality is that the Yankees bullpen is very thin. After Holmes, Weaver, and Kahnle, the Yankees don’t have a single reliable arm. They were hoping that a few of Burdi, Ferguson, Gonzalez, and Santana would evolve into shut down relief pitchers, but that did not come to pass. At this point, we can’t count on any of them in a playoff game.


So, the Yankees need four relief pitchers. Where are they going to come from?


Internal Options


Ron Marinaccio

I’m split on whether or not Marinaccio has been the victim of a grave injustice or if he’s just not that good. He was rightfully angry when the Yankees optioned him yet again to Triple-A after a successful outing. He has a 3.11 xERA this season in the majors a sub-1.00 ERA at Triple-A. He has a career 2.86 ERA in the majors. Yet, the Yankees opted to hold on to Michael Tonkin rather than let him rest for a day or two.


I think the disconnect comes down to Marinaccio’s stuff. A straight 93 mph fastball is simply underwhelming for a 2024 relief pitcher, especially when his off speed stuff isn’t particularly special. He’s had dominant stretches throughout his career followed by weeks or months where he’s very hittable. I don’t think Ron is a future closer, but I sure wish he were in Sunday’s game instead of Victor Gonzalez.


Scott Effross and Lou Trivino

Neither of these guys seem close. Trivino was starting to get closer, but is barely a year out from Tommy John and had to shut down his rehab. It was always ambitious to get him back before the late summer, and even then we don’t know how good he will be. Trivino wasn’t exactly an elite closer before the injury.


Effross is more frustrating. He did his Tommy John rehab, but then went down with back surgery. The diagnosis over the winter was “June or July”, so we should start hearing some news soon if Effross is going to contribute. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him in the playoff bullpen, but I wouldn’t count on anything until we see him healthy and effective on the mound.


Prospect Relief Conversions

A lot of Yankee starters are struggling at Triple-A. Will Warren, Yoendrys Gomez, and Clayton Beeter (currently on the IL with a shoulder injury) are all struggling with control amidst the robo-zone. It may be time to try these players out in the bullpen.


The Yankees starter success, and the impending return of Gerrit Cole, make it easier to lose a depth starter or two. Realistically, Will Warren will not be playing any role on the 2024 Yankees unless something goes very, very wrong. Cody Poteet will be a fine enough depth starter if needed. Maybe the Yankees were waiting to convert each as potential trade candidates, but that won’t work when they are pitching so poorly.


Gomez feels like the obvious starting point. He’s never been able to establish passable control in the minors for a starting pitcher, but has always had great stuff. He also hasn’t been able to consistently stay healthy. With only one option year remaining, it’s now or never for Gomez.


Jack Neely

I wrote about Neely at the end of April. Not a lot has changed since then, so I’ll keep this one short. Neely is a relief-first prospect. He’s 6’9”. The Yankees have ticked up his velocity, so he now has a 94-95 mph sinker that benefits from his height and release point to go along with a plus slider. After dominating Double-A since his promotion last August, Neely is primed for a promotion soon. I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Yankees skip Triple-A and bring Neely straight to the majors. He’s arguably their best relief-first pitcher since Mark Melancon.


J.T. Brubaker

I also wrote about Brubaker in April. He’s pretty much on the same timeline as Gerrit Cole, so Brubaker could be ready to return to the majors in June. The short scouting report on Brubaker is that he has some of the best spin in the majors on his sinker, slider and especially curveball, but was a chronic underperformer in Pittsburgh due to poor command. It’s still weird that the Yankees were willing to take on his $2 million salary for only a year and a half of post-injury team control. I think that they think that Brubaker has a a ton of potential as a short reliever. We’ll see.


External Options

As usually, there will be a lot of relief pitchers on the move at the deadline. The Yankees will probably trade for one or two pitchers that are solid but relatively unknown, like Clay Holmes or Scott Effross. I’ll focus here on two of the better known players that they could trade for.


Mason Miller

He has wow stuff. He’s probably the best relief pitcher in the world right now:

Miller is on the trade block because he’s a massive risk. The A’s moved him to the bullpen after Miller missed most of the 2023 season with a UCL sprain. He dodged surgery for now. He might be able to pull a Masahiro Tanaka and avoid Tommy John forever, but he could also snap his elbow ligament any day now. The A’s know the risk, which is why they are likely to trade him. Other teams also know the risk, which is why they won’t pay up for Miller as if he were a young Aroldis Chapman.


I think it makes so much sense for the Yankees to trade for Miller. As long as his elbow holds up for six more months, he can help a win-now team win the World Series. The Yankees have a lot of A’s-like major league-ready players to trade for him. I wouldn’t be shocked to see them ask for quantity. If so, expect to see Everson Pereira, Oswaldo Peraza, Clayton Beeter, Carlos Narvaez, and a bunch of other guys in Triple-A find their way to Oakland. Maybe add in a slumping top prospect like Spencer Jones or Roderick Arias.


Paul Sewald

Okay, maybe Mason Miller is unrealistic. The A’s may want to hold on to him to convince some city government to build them a stadium. In that case, Paul Sewald would make a great playoff setup man. All he did last year was lead the Diamondbacks bullpen to the World Series:

Sewald arguably should close over Clay Holmes. The Diamondbacks aren’t making the playoffs. He’s 34 years old and makes $8 million. Sewald returned a few weeks ago from a minor Spring Training oblique strain and is pitching great. He’s going to be traded, won’t cost that much, and would be a major asset for the Yankees bullpen,


Bottom Line

Brian Cashman has a lot of work to do, but he also has options. I hope that the Yankees realize that they have a problem and rip the bandaid off quickly. The Yankees always move too slowly to jettison their bad cargo.


It’s hard to predict what will happen, but I think the Yankees playoff bullpen will include:

  • One of Effross or Trivino

  • JT Brubaker

  • One of the prospects

  • A big trade


Get to work, Cashman.

20 Comments


Chris D.
Chris D.
May 29

Anybody,but the guys we have, except 4-5 of our Quality Men, we know who they are... relievers from L.S. have to go !! I haven't liked this pen since the beginning, I never liked the way Boone uses our guys, always totally ignoring the Lefty vRighty side of upcoming battles !!?? I've always hated that about Boone 😡😡, it's done for a Reason Aaron !!! GEEZ !! Trade for quality, and bring up some quality, Now Please

Chris Dederick

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Jeff Korell
Jeff Korell
May 29

There is no question in my mind that the bullpen is the Yankees biggest weakness right now. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE for the Yankees to acquire Mason Miller, but at the same time, regard him as a "Tommy John Surgery waiting to happen", which concerns me. But if he holds up, he is definitely the "missing piece" when it comes to the Yankees advancing deep into the post season, and being in the World Series, and potentially winning the World Series.


Clay Holmes has had many excellent outings this season, before obviously blowing that game against Seattle last week and blowing last night's game in Anaheim. But even in victory, and even in all of those games that h…


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Paul Semendinger
Paul Semendinger
May 29

I'd be willing to trade for Mason Miller. Hey, why not? This is the year to go all in. 2024 or bust!

I never speculate on the trade pieces because we never know, but I think the Yankees have the talent to get him without having to give their best prospects.


Miller would be a difference-maker on the 2024 team. A very needed piece - a shutdown strikeout pitcher as a stopper.

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Paul Semendinger
Paul Semendinger
May 30
Replying to

Good discussion.


Maybe I should srart a Civil War site... :)


We don't know what Meade would have done...


It seems certain though that Grant would have come East. And with Grant came... victory.

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Alan B.
Alan B.
May 29

I can't really disagree with a lot of what you're saying E.J., but I think Marianaccio falls into the same category as several other NYY prospects that get it done in the minors - Cashman & his gang really don't like them, or think they have a future. Neither are the group interested in trying to even legitimately see what they have, and are good with treating them like organizational depth.


The one advantage of this new schedule (that I hate), is that you see or end up needing to read scouting reports on basically everyone. For instance, what about this Angels closer? Is he available at a decent price? We know the Marlins are open for business, so.....


FYI:…

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Alan B.
Alan B.
May 29
Replying to

Dominguez played 4 innings in CF, Jones went 1-4, BB, K, walk off hit. The Somerset pitchers struck out 18 Bowie players today.

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fuster
May 29

the starting pitching has been very good

the offense has been very good

the relief pitching has been merely good


relievers were sent to San Diego

relievers are on the IL


EJ is correct to note that the bullpen should be fortified

Like
Alan B.
Alan B.
May 29
Replying to

Burdi, how long will he be on the active roster before going back on the IL?

Hamilton hasn't been anywhere near as effective this year,and I wonder how healthy he is too.

Will Kahnle make it through the rest of the year without another trip to the IL?

Ferguson, enough said.

Tonkin, that should be Weaver's job, or even Gomez.

Gonzalez, I was never sold in him, even when he was a Dodger.

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