The Yankees said, as the 2016 season came to an end, that they were targeting pitching for the coming season and that particularly strengthening their bullpen was their big target. As Spring Training approaches, it would seem that they have failed to even come close to meeting either of those two inter-related targets.
They have, as we noted in our last report, spent extensively on bringing back one component to their bullpen. Aroldis Chapman, who was traded away for prospects at the trading deadline, is back from the Cubs and has a 5 year contract.
Aside from that, 10 pitchers who were part of the roster last season have been allowed to leave – albeit one of these, Nick Rumbelow has since been made a non-roster invitee to Spring Training. No others have arrived. That is a bizarre situation.
Now that doesn’t mean they don’t have more than sufficient pitchers to stock their bullpen twice over. However, it does mean that all those potential selections are players who were part of the bullpen last season – a bullpen that needed to be strengthened.
The candidates seem to be:
Two of these will be needed to finish out the starting rotation which has only Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda definitely favoured for slots.
As well as Rumbelow, Jordan Montgomery, Justus Sheffield, Brady Lail, Evan Rutckyi, James Kaprelian, J.P. Feyereisen, Chance Adams and Daniel Camarena are the Spring Training invitees. Most of these are players who are coming along to Florida to gain experience and will ultimately wind up at various levels of the Minor Leagues.
So this is a stripped back bullpen but I don’t even begin to understand how it is stronger.
Similarly, the starting rotation since last year has lost Nathan Eovaldi through injury and Ivan Nova in a trade which gave the Yankees very little in return. Tito Polo and Stephen Tarpley eventually came in as the “players to be named later” but they are not going to make an impact any time soon. Meanwhile, after leaving the Yankees, Nova went 5-2 with a 3.06 ERA with the Pirates. The Pirates expect him to be their no. 3 starter going into the news season and have rewarded him with a 3-year contract which is worth $7m in its first year on the strength of that.
And no-one has come in. Players like Adam Warren and especially Luis Severino seem better suited to a role in the bullpen but the Yankees go into Spring Training hoping to make starters of them.
In terms of the defense and the batting line-up, we have even less changes in the Bronx. The ambition here was to make the team younger which to some degree was inevitable due to retirements and the aforementioned deadline day purge.
But as mentioned in our previous article, the arrival of 37-yr old Matt Holliday from St Louis has bucked that trend. The only major signing, in this category, since then looks likely to be Chris Carter who is signing pending a medical. He was non-tendered by the Milwaukee Brewers and is now added to the mix around the 1b / DH choices – ironically pushing the 26 year old Tyler Austin further back in the line. Carter is 30 and a .218 career hitter with lots of power and strikeouts. He has proven to be a weak pinch hitter in past opportunities.
So do the Yankees go into Spring training stronger than they were before they shipped Chapman to the Cubs on the trading deadline day? No, I don’t think so. Does their much vaunted farm system have much chance of bearing its firstfruits on opening day? No, i don’t think so.
A possible wildcard aside, they are probably looking at 2018 for their earliest real chance of success and by then it will be with a new manager at the helm.