Yankees Trade Targets: Relievers

By now, you’ve heard the rhetoric: The Yankees need Starting Pitching.  The current pitching rotation is in shambles after a week in which they were ripped to the tune of 52 runs (48 earned) in 26 innings pitched.  Let me repeat that: 52 runs in 26 innings.  Mercifully, Domingo German was able to put an end to that streak last night, earning his 13th win, going 5.1 innings with just three earned runs, in a 9-6 victory over the Red Sox.

While there is absolutely no question that this team needs to add another starting pitcher (or two) before Wednesday’s MLB Trade Deadline, there is another way the team can improve the pitching staff: by way of the bullpen.

Photo Credit: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

CC Sabathia’s latest trip to the Injured List opens up a spot in the rotation, but manager Aaron Boone has favored using bullpen days when the team is short a starter.  The combination of Chad Green and Nestor Cortes has seen a ton of success in that role this year, however, the team can always add additional arms to an already stacked (but overused) bullpen to eat up valuable innings during the dog days of summer.

The following players could be interesting trade targets for the Yankees in place of, or in addition to, their pursuit of starting pitching:

Jose Leclerc

With the Texas Rangers now in full-sell mode, one of their most valuable pieces to move could be right-handed reliever Jose Leclerc.   At first pass, Leclerc’s numbers don’t fly off the page in 2019: a 1-3 record to go with a 4.34 ERA, five saves and an ERA+ of 117.  However, this is the same pitcher who is just a year removed from a 1.56 ERA / 300 ERA+ season with 12 saves.  Additionally, Leclerc offers a ton of future control, as he’s under contract through at least 2022, with team options in 2023 & 2024 at a fair market price.  Leclerc’s recent success (eight scoreless outings between July 11 and July 27; 6.2 IP, nine strikeouts, .053 BAA) in addition to his team friendly long-term control might drive his price up, but this is the exact type of target Brian Cashman has been willing to pay for in the past.  A very similar recent acquisition was Tommy Kahnle in 2017 who is still with the team in 2019.  Texas will likely ask for a top-15 prospect, but if Cashman can get creative and pry Leclerc loose without sacrificing Frazier, Florial, Garcia or Abreu, it’s a move that can absolutely pay dividends the rest of the way.

Shane Greene

Another team that is in a rebuilding stage, currently owners of the worst record in the American League, is the Detroit Tigers.  A first-time All Star in 2019, Greene has sparkled to the tune of a 1.22 ERA (393 ERA+ (!)) with a 0.865 WHIP, 1.5 WAR and 22 saves in 25 chances.

Greene, as you might remember, began his MLB career with the Yankees in 2014 as a starter, before being dealt to Detroit in the three-team trade that brought Didi Gregorius to the Bronx and Robbie Ray, another Yankees trade target, to Arizona (from Detroit).  Greene struggled mightily as a starter for the Tigers in 2015, owning one of the worst ERAs in baseball at 6.88, before he was converted to a reliever, and then eventually a closer.

Photo Credit: AP Photo

Greene’s trade value is sky-high at the moment, and I wouldn’t expect the Tigers to discount any return they might get for him.  They did, after all, ask for Gleyber Torres in any trade talks regarding starting pitcher Matthew Boyd.  Considering Greene can be controlled through 2020, he’s worth a higher investment than a guy like Leclerc, even if the latter can be controller for longer, and if the opportunity exists to bring him back to the Bronx, Cashman should be willing to offer up an ample return.

Felipe Vazquez

Maybe the most dynamic relief arm available this summer is Pittsburgh lefty Felipe Vazquez.  Vazquez has excelled as a reliever the past three seasons, but is putting together another tremendous campaign in 2019 for the struggling Pirates, as he owns a 2-1 record with a 1.87 ERA (235 ERA+), 1.062 WHIP and 14.1 K/9, striking out a ridiculous 68 batters in just 43.1 innings of work.  He also has racked up 21 saves against just a single blown save.

The Dodgers are said to be in hot pursuit of Vazquez as well, so New York would have to pony up in order to acquire him, but he is a game changing lefty that would make the Yankees’ bullpen nearly bullet proof, enabling Aaron Boone to use any of Vazquez/Zack Britton/Aroldis Chapman as a situational lefty in a big spot.  Imagine having three closer-caliber lefties in your bullpen that you can use any which way you please.

Ultimately, the cost for Vazquez will probably be too high to spark Cashman’s interest, but a boy can dream.

Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports

* * * * *

At the end of the day, Brian Cashman might elect to do nothing with the bullpen, and instead hold out for the return of Dellin Betances & Luis Severino.  Betances, when healthy, is still one of the best right-handed relievers in all of baseball.  Severino, as we saw in 2016, can be an electric option out of the bullpen, and it probably makes sense not to push him in 2019 after missing all of the season to this point with lat and shoulder injuries.  Of course, you can never have too many bullpen arms.  The more top options that get added just means less opportunities for Jonathan Holder, Stephen Tarpley and Luis Cessa. And would anyone lose any sleep over that?

Other targets include:
·         Kirby Yates of the Padres
·         Ken Giles of the Blue Jays
·         Ian Kennedy of the Royals
·         Alex Colome of the White Sox
·         Mychal Givens of the Orioles
·         Raisel Iglesias of the Reds
·         Edwin Diaz of the Mets, although New York’s willingness to trade with the Yankees makes this extremely unlikely

Article by: Andrew Natalizio


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