It's time for the Yankees to fix their bullpen's lone weak spot: Chasen Shreve
When describing the Yankees’ bullpen, some words that come to mind are “electric,” “filthy,” “overpowering” and “unhittable.” For the core six members of the Bombers’ relief gang (Chapman, Betances, Robertson, Green, Holder and Warren), these words ring true. After all, those men, with some help from A.J. Cole and Luis Cessa, have combined to hurl 54 scoreless innings since June 5, an almost unthinkable accomplishment. They have also helped the Yankees earn the third best bullpen ERA in MLB (2.72), as well as the best bullpen K/9 (11.97) and WAR (5.2).
Unfortunately, there’s one reliever on the team who hasn’t exactly held his own, and his performances of late have been costing the team games. That pitcher is Chasen Shreve. Since June 5, he has managed to allow five runs in 6.1 innings pitched, per Katie Sharpe. Remember that no other Yankee reliever has allowed a single run in that span. Additionally, Shreve has somehow allowed 100% of inherited runners to score since May 23. The cherry on top came on Sunday when Shreve entered a tied game in the bottom of the 12th inning only to serve up a walk-off home run to Jake Bauers on the first pitch he threw. In the previous eight innings of the game, Yankees’ relievers held the Rays hitless. After allowing the home run, Shreve’s season ERA now sits at 5.19 and his WHIP is a brutal 1.65. The WHIP is largely thanks to his putrid 5.2 BB/9.
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Another huge issue with the 27-year-old lefty is that he owns reverse splits. As the only lefty reliever outside of closer Aroldis Chapman, Shreve needs to be able to get left-handed hitters out. Unfortunately, lefties are batting .265 against him with a staggering 1.086 OPS and three home runs in 34 at-bats. Comparatively, right-handers are batting .264 with a .801 OPS and four home runs in 72 at-bats. Any talk of Chasen Shreve being the Yankees’ “lefty-specialist” is nonsense. New York’s true lefty-specialist has been righty Jonathan Holder, whom lefties are batting .114 against with a .358 OPS. Simply put, there is a no longer a role for Shreve on this team.
As far as replacing Shreve, the Yankees can look outward to the trade market or inward to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Down on the farm, the Bombers have three realistic options: Cody Carroll, Tommy Kahnle and Justus Sheffield. Carroll has had the best season of the three, pitching to a 2.76 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 32.2 innings this season. Kahnle was a catalyst for the Yankees last year after coming over from the White Sox with Todd Frazier and David Robertson in July. Down the stretch, he owned a 2.70 ERA for the Yanks in 32 games and was key in the postseason. This year, injuries and ineffectiveness landed Kahnle back in Triple-A, but the talent is obvious.
Then there’s Justus Sheffield, who is the only lefty in the group. Sheffield is the Yankees #2 prospect according to MLB.com and has 3.26 ERA in 38.2 Triple-A innings this season. He also has a 0.81 WHIP against lefties. Envisioned as a future starter, Sheffield can help the Yanks this year out of the ‘pen. If the team wants to avoid dealing prospects and taking on salary, Sheffield seems like their best bet to take over the lefty-specialist role. At this time, Sheffield isn’t on the 40-man roster, but designating Shreve for assignment would allow them to change that rather quickly.
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On the trade market, there figure to be two options: Zach Britton and Brad Hand. There are pros and cons to acquiring both, and neither would be very cheap prospect-wise in all likelihood. Let’s dig into Brad Hand first. Hand has had an ERA under 3.00 each of the last three seasons, and appears to be headed to his second consecutive all-star game. He also fits the bill of an outstanding lefty-specialist with a miniscule 0.63 ERA and .068 batting average against versus lefties. Those are the pros. On the other hand, he is under relatively cheap team control ($23.5 million) for the next three years and is only 28-years old. This means Hand is going to cost an arm and a leg. Jon Morosi recently reported that San Diego wanted Rafael Devers in preliminary trade talks with Boston. If the Padres demand Miguel Andujar or Gleyber Torres, it’s obviously a hard pass.
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Moving on, the other plausible option is Zach Britton. While the Orioles may not be willing to trade Manny Machado within the division, they are likely okay with sending Zach Britton, and his expiring contract, to a rival. Unlike Hand, Britton should be considerably cheaper thanks to his aforementioned contract situation and the fact that he just returned from a torn Achilles two weeks ago. That's the positive for the Orioles lefty. Unfortunately, Britton has yet to show that one, he is healthy, and two, he’s capable of being a dominant reliever again. From 2014-16, Britton didn’t have an ERA over 2.00 in any season and his 2016 campaign (0.54 ERA and 0.87 WHIP) might be the best for a reliever ever. In his first six appearances this year, Britton has walked nearly a batter per inning, so he clearly isn’t back just yet. The Yankees will have to take a wait-and-see approach with him.
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The bottom line here is that the Yankees need to replace Chasen Shreve. It doesn’t necessarily have to be with another lefty, but it would certainly be nice to have a traditional lefty-specialist in the bullpen. New York has options depending on how they want to approach this, and there’s really no excuse for Shreve to appear in any more games for the team. In a perfect world, the Yanks would go out and get Brad Hand. Making a trade for someone like Hand could be the final piece to their World Series puzzle, but only if Cashman can talk down their asking price.
Article by: Jake GrazianoFollow@JakeGraziano Follow@BronxBomberBall