Bruney’s return creates a roster decision


On Tuesday Brian Bruney will make his second return to the Yankees bullpen, this time hopefully for good. In limited action this year and last Bruney has been lights out, striking out 46 and allowing just 10 runs over 43.1 innings. The problem, of course, is that he’s been off the field more often than he’s been on. A healthy Bruney can make a world of difference in the Yankees bullpen.

When the Yankees activate Bruney tomorrow they will have to make a roster move. To some this move is obvious. The Yanks have a number of ineffective arms in the pen, and removing one of them would make the most sense, since it would be subtracting from where they add. There are a few other factors, though, which might make this decision a bit tougher. Here are the five moves the Yankees could make on Tuesday:

DFA Brett Tomko: The 36-year-old Tomko was never really good over his now-13-year career. He’s had two years with a league average ERA, and one of them came in his 1997 rookie campaign. His current 5.56 ERA is inflated due to his horrible performance on Friday, so he’s been decent in stints for the Yankees (including three innings of shutout ball against Texas two weeks ago). The question now is of whether Tomko can help this team going forward. Given his track record, it’s tough to expect it.

DFA Jose Veras: Fans have been clamoring for this move all season, and they might finally get their wish. It seems Veras walks the leadoff hitter every time out, which is one of the most frustrating things a relief pitcher can do. The Yankees don’t wan to give up on Veras because he has electric stuff, but at some point you have to consider the good of the team. His only saving grace right now, beyond his uncontrollable stuff, is his performance in multi-inning stints. When called upon for two or more innings, Veras has been much better: 5 G, 12.1 IP, 3 ER, 3 BB, 10 K. In outings of 1.2 innings or fewer, he’s pitched in 20 games, 13.1 IP, 14 ER, 11 BB, 8 K. So perhaps he’s just too amped up for the shorter outings — or perhaps this is yet another failing of a small sample.

DFA Angel Berroa: This would leave the Yanks with 13 pitchers yet again. It would represent a stay of execution for either Tomko or Veras, but not much more. With Xavier Nady due back in about two weeks, the Yanks could be waiting to DFA Berroa until then. Count me among those who would rather keep Berroa for two more weeks, if for no other reason than to give the infielders some time off in blowouts, than carry 13 pitchers again.

Option Ramiro Pena: This is probably the least likely move, but there’s a chance the Yankees want to get him some regular playing time in the minors. Again, this would be a more likely move upon Xavier Nady’s return. In any case, I’d much rather DFA Berroa, but the front office has a few more factors to consider than fan preference.

Option David Robertson: While optioning Pena would be the least likely, optioning Robertson would be the worst. D-Rob has been a solid option for the Yanks since his latest recall, though most of his innings have come in low leverage situations. Still, it seems Girardi will call on him more often. He was the de facto third option out of the pen over the past week or so, and will move into solid fourth option starting tomorrow. Since his return to the big league club in late May, Robertson has thrown 7.1 innings, striking out 11, walking three, and allowing just three hits and one run. It’s a teeny tiny sample, of course, but the results are there. Also encouraging is that he’s thrown 65 percent of his pitches for strikes in that span. The Yanks absolutely need guys in the bullpen who can throw strikes.

The best options, to me, are either the designation for assignment of Tomko or Veras. Tomko seems to make the most sense, since he’s old and hasn’t been very good throughout his career, while Veras is young and has electric stuff. We often preach playing for the long-term, but that’s not to the complete detriment of the short-term. Concerning the bullpen, the Yanks might want to make the short-term move here. That might be keeping Tomko around.

It sounds silly. I say it to myself and think, “you’re going to sound like an idiot for possibly advocating Tomko over Veras.” Maybe I will. I just don’t see that it’s clear that Veras can ever be trusted in a low-leverage situation. Then again, as the numbers indicate, perhaps he has fixable problems. At worst he can be a quasi-long man, going two and three innings at a clip. Maybe that pacing will get him back on track. If it does, he’d be a lot more help than Tomko.

After two paragraphs of stream-of-consciousness ramblings, I think I come down on the side of DFAing Tomko. He’s old, he’s never really been good, and chances are he won’t provide more than Veras for the rest of the season. I also think that the Yanks are too seduced by Veras to give up on him in order to keep a 36-year-old on the roster. We’ll find out tomorrow, but the more I ramble, the more clear the decision becomes.

Categories : Transactions


  1. A.D. says:

    Tomko makes the most sense, at least Veras could return to form of last year, Tomko is just showing vintage Tomko.

    • I think Veras’s true self is something along the lines of his 2008 2nd half: 26.1 IP 28H 18BB 34K 1.75 WHIP 4.44 ERA .272 BAA but with a slightly lower WHIP. Expecting Veras to return to his first half form or even produce to the overall stats he produced last season is a bit of a stretch. This production is still better than what Tomko can likely produce. DFA Tomko.

  2. Mattingly's Love Child says:

    I’m very torn on this. Tomko can at least throw strikes some of the time. Veras, who friggin knows which guy shows up. I guess I’m in the camp of those hoping that Veras can find some of last year’s control.

    How about this for an idea….option Robertson for 1 day. See how Wang does on Wednesday. If he shits the bed again, find any crazy excuse to put him on the DL and bring back Robertson. If Wang pitches well, DFA Tomko and bring back Robertson.

    I know it’s crazy, but it seems to me to be the best plan to make sure the Yanks don’t DFA someone that they might need to use in a couple of days.

    • Mattingly's Love Child says:

      Oh by the way, I’m pretty sure there is no chance in hell the Yanks do this. But I thought it would be fun to think outside the box a little.

      • whozat says:

        Another problem is that your “Wang pitches well” case doesn’t work…you can’t DFA Tomko to bring back Robertson, I don’t think. Pretty sure that, if you want to bring someone back from the minors less than 10 days after sending him down, it MUST be as a DL replacement.

        • Mattingly's Love Child says:

          Fair enough.

          I’m kind of surprised that with the way Wang has pitched that the Yankees didn’t try to plan to activate Bruney after Wang pitched. I know they need Bruney’s help ASAP, but do they really need him so desperately to beat the Natinals?

          BTW I’m definitely not by any means attached to keeping Tomko or Veras. It just seems that if you have a pitcher struggling terribly who is scheduled to pitch against a good hitting, though bad team, you would hold off making roster moves until absolutely necesssary.

    • A.D. says:

      I dunno if Wang’s going back on the DL unless something actually happens to him.

      • JP says:

        Maybe we can get Bruney to insult him, and Wang can injure his arm gesticulating wildly at him in left field. Then, to the DL!!

      • Andy in Sunny Daytona says:

        It looks pretty strong that Matsuzaka will probably go back on the DL with no apparent injury, why not Wang.

        • JP says:

          Really? Got an article/link on this? Matsuzaka’s story is interesting. When he first came to Boston, SI did a big story on how much he pitched and worked, and how the Japanese system might be “better” than ours, and how more work, not less, was the key to developing an injury-resistant pitcher.

          But his actual performance at the MLB level suggests the opposite. He’s not been durable, at all.

          Maybe it’s the 5 day cycle in MLB, v. once every 7 in Japan. Thoughts, anyone?

        • Matt-Pitt says:

          It wouldn’t surprise me if they made up another phantom injury for him. There is an agreement in his contract that he couldn’t be sent down to the minors once in the majors without it being through injury so they would have to make something up to put him down there. Or they could always put him in teh bullpenzer!1!!2! But paying a guy that much money to be in teh bullpen would be insane.

  3. Between Veras and Tomko… I think it comes down to upside. We KNOW what Tomko brings to the table, his value is well-established over a long career. It’s not like he’s going to mature, fix some problems, and become an effective reliever. As much as Veras has frustrated all of us this season, there’s, at least, a chance that he can find a bit more control and have a decent run out of the bullpen.

  4. MP says:

    They are not going to DFA Berroa or option Pena because of the games in National League Parks coming up. You need some bench players to pinch-hit, so a huge pitching staff and small bench wouldn’t make sense.

    I say DFA Tomko.

  5. Jesus says:

    Should Wang crap the bed again on Wednesday and without any possible injury to make up aside from one of the mental health issues we’ve seen recently. Would you risk losing Wang by putting him on waivers? I mean if im another team and i see wang out there im not sure i would want to pick him up.

  6. cuponoodles says:

    Absolutely DFA Tomko. Is he going to be at least a viable option in the future or next year, especially considering we already have Aceves and/or Wang/Hughes as more viable ‘long men’, he is just dead weight on a team with little to no use for him.

    Bruney should take Tomko’s spot, and hopefully we can work some sort of mid-season magic for Street, and get rid of Veras then. There’s also Kroenke and Melancon as more viable options too…

  7. JP says:

    Tomko had a very good spring, and with the exception of one outing this season, has been much better than Jose Veras. I guess I’d consider keeping Tomko if there was some reason to believe maybe his improvement this season was legitimate. Maybe he’s battled injuries his entire career, and this year he’s finally stabilized and feeling better, etc.

    But absent something like that, I would probably choose to keep Veras over Tomko. Veras, when he has control, is a very good relief pitcher. Not slightly above average, but a very good pitcher who can make guys swing and miss.

    Weird suggestion department: After seeing recently-cut-reliever-turned-starter Fernando Nieve shut down the Yankees, how about, if possible, trying to convert Veras to a starter? I realize you’d have to hope he cleared waivers, but you put him in AA or AAA and start stretching him out and see what happens. Maybe he doesn’t have the temperment to be a relief pitcher.

    • Zach says:

      Fernando Nieve was brought up as a starter, yes he went to Houston’s bullpen for 40 games, but that’s like saying Wang is now a reliever-turned-starter.

    • jsbrendog says:

      except wasnt nieve a touted prospect as a starter for the astros and then hurt his elbow/shoulder and had surgery and came back as a rleiever? dont think that jibes here

    • ChrisS says:

      He hasn’t started a game in 5 years, but I don’t see what the harm is in it. AAA needs starters, send him, stretch him out and who knows, maybe he shines. If he doesn’t, slap back in the ‘pen and he may return to last year’s ability.

    • While I’ve defended Veras probably way more than I should have this year, I cannot possibly endorse Veras as a starter.

      He’d be Oliver Perez Pt. Deux.

  8. The Lodge says:

    Tomko can eat innings though.

    And because he is older/borderline washed up, you don’t feel too bad about dragging him out to the mound twice in one week in the third (it’s happened all too often of late that the ‘pen has been summoned very early).

    I say send Veras down to work on control and hone his gameplan and leave Tomko to eat innings, then hope for more consistency from Pettitte. And AJ. and Joba. And Wang gets sorted out. Maybe Veras can help down the stretch after Coke/D-rob start getting a little burnt out.

  9. The final option that we didn’t consider intentionally is to option Phil Hughes. It’s on the table, but it’s a very remote option. The Yanks want him to shadow Wang, and they also realize that he has value to the team throwing out of the pen. As long as he meets his innings requirements, there’s no reason to waste his innings at AAA.

    • JP says:

      Ben–do you think the Yankees are committed to keeping Hughes in the MLB roster this entire season, if/until he reaches his limit? Seems that way…

      • I think so. I have no solid info to go on, but they recognize that Hughes can be a positive contributor at the Big League level right now.

        • The Lodge says:

          Hughes’ usage leaves me scratching my itchy head. Not that there’s a better way to deal with him necessarily, but he is in limbo somewhere between pitching everyday and being able to jump back in the rotation.

          Say Wang just can’t get it done and Hughes has to go back to the rotation. By stashing him as a reliever you lost the ability to have him start (at least for a while). How long before he can make a 6 inning start again?

          • By stashing him as a reliever you lost the ability to have him start (at least for a while). How long before he can make a 6 inning start again?

            I’d guess it would take Wang probably at least 2-3 starts to get back up to full bore after being a reliever for an extended period of time, if that’s what happens. But frankly, right now he needs to be able to pitch 3 good innings before we worry about him pitching 6 good innings.

            I’m guessing if Hughes goes back to the rotation and Wang goes to the pen, he stays in the pen until August/September when we’re ready to shut Joba down (or, goes back to the rotation if we have an injury).

    • radnom says:

      Bruney coming back should not affect Hughes spot on the roster, but Wang’s performance should. There is only so long I want him working out of the pen as a 1-2 inning guy. Its fine for a few more weeks, but if Wang gets it back together I think you send him back to AAA, and if he doesn’t then obviously he slots into the rotation.

    • Hybrid option:

      DFA Tomko and activate Bruney. After Wang’s start, if he’s good, option Hughes and promote Melancon. If Wang’s bad, give Hughes his rotation spot and move Wang back to the bullpen (or phantom injury DL him, if possible, and promote Melancon).

  10. Mike Axisa says:

    If they DFA Veras, I’m willing to bet they can work out trade within the ten days. They managed to get something for Chase Wright, and that guy was terrible.

  11. leokitty says:

    It’s got to be Tomko. Veras is frustrating as Hell, and I really hate watching him pitch but when he comes out like the other night and actually throws strikes you can easily argue for him to stick around. I think Veras will always have a tough time locating his breaking ball (which is a shame, as it’s killer) but his fastball command is not completely terrible.

    Tomko, though, is a known quantity of below-average to just plain bad and like most people I don’t see any reason to think he’s magically turned a corner.

    I feel dirty arguing to keep Veras around but I hated the move to bring Tomko up in the first place. You have to go with the potential upside here.

  12. radnom says:

    I vote for Tomko as well…blah blah Veras at least has potential everyone has already said this.

    The only really wrong answer out of all those options is optioning Robertson, and I hate to say it but I’m not confident the Yankees won’t do it….it would fit the theme of their roster moves this year.

  13. There’s one variable we’re not really considering here, and it’s a variable it’s tough for us to consider because we don’t have the relevant information nor any idea what the Yankees’ analysis of that relevant information is… We have no idea how healthy Brian Bruney is, and we also have no idea how healthy the Yankees think he is and how healthy they think he can stay.

    I haven’t thought this through, just tossing it out there… But if the Yankees are confident that Bruney will NOT stay healthy all season, or if they’re really worried he could blow out his elbow at any moment… Does that affect the Veras/Tomko conversation?

    I’m not sure it does, but it’s giving me pause. Maybe in that situation they’d opt for the less currently shitty, but with less possible upside, option.

    • Bruno says:

      We still have Melancon in AAA if Bruney goes down again. DFA Tomko no questions asked. He’ll probably end up in Washington’s ‘pen lol.

    • I’d imagine that if the team was truly that worried about Bruney’s elbow, they would have 60-day DL’d him and given him all summer to rest/rehab/maybe get cut up to have him back for September. While we’d all love to have Bruney back ASAP, the fact remains we can most certainly get to the August/September stretch run still firmly in the division title race with a shitty bullpen, so we’d rather be conservative and get the pen ready for the playoffs rather than increase the risk and force the issue.

      It’s the same reason we’re auditioning CMW now. We’re basically playing with house money. Our team is good enough to be a not-good team during June/July, because we’ll be awesome in August/September/October… if that makes any sense.

  14. Zach says:

    Why not just DFA Berrora and save the extra arm? It’s not like the starting pitching is exactly going 6-7 every game.

  15. SoCalYankeeFan says:

    I say DFA both Veras and Tomko. Like Mike said, we should be able to get some return on Veras within the DFA period. Bring up Melancon and activate Bruney. If Bruney goes down again, bring up Kroenke from SWB. When Nady is activated, DFA Berroa.

    SoCalYankeeFan 8)

  16. thebusiness says:

    Who’s going to pick up Tomko? Maybe we can get a single A ball girl in return for the DFA trade.

  17. Jordan says:

    I’m torn between the two feasible options, DFAing Veras or Tomko.

    What’s leaning me towards DFAing Veras however is that he really has no role in the bullpen going forward, assuming everyone stays relatively healthy, Bruney is early April Bruney, etc.

    To me, the question revolves around Aceves. He’s proven himself to be a reliable option out of the pen, the most reliable outside of Mo through the middle of June. If we DFA Tomko, I assume Aceves becomes our long man. I don’t think that’s our best option, putting him in basically blowout situations. Aceves should be used in tougher situations, because he gets tough outs (barring 2 on 0 out with heart of order up in Fenway, I’m still bitter). That, I feel, it is the perfect role for Tomko. We need someone to be last in the pen and wasting the mop-up spot on Aceves is silly. If Tomko can handle a 2-3 inning work load every few days if needed, while not blowing the game even more wide open, then I think he’s more valuble than Veras.

    I would like to see Robertson take over Veras’ old role, which Veras clearly cannot handle anymore. Furthermore, I don’t think many of us see Veras as a reliable multiple inning guy, despite his numbers in those situations. A few walks in that first inning and his pitch count is shot and then there goes the game and another few bullpen arms.

    I am not including Hughes in this argument because his use seems extremely scripted, therefore he cannot be relied upon to be a consistent long man, which really isn’t what we want him to do anyway. He’ll be sent down soon enough.

  18. Matt-Pitt says:

    With all the NL games coming up…. Do you think the Yankees DFA Berroa and call up Duncan, Miranda or Rodriguez to be a better bat to PH with?

  19. Jake H says:

    I think it’s going to be Tomko

    • Bill says:

      it should be, but with the yankees’ odd handling of their roster this year, i wouldnt necessarily count on it. it took them a long time to get rid of traber last year, and berroa is still wasting a roster spot. dude plays once a month.

  20. Bill says:

    optioning david robertson would be a headscratching move. he has a 2.25 era and has pitched very well. tompko, on the other hand has an era north of 5.00. the performance we saw on friday is the real tompko. if the yankees want to win, robertson stays and tompko goes.

  21. MattG says:

    The answer is so simple, I feel kind of silly pointing it out. First, you demote Tomko to hot dog vendor. Then, you send Jason Grimsley in to sabotage whatever treadmill Jose Veras is going to use, and get him onto the DL.

    Then you recall Bruney and Melancon, and let Coke & Robertson battle it out for the “6th inning.”

  22. Gustavo says:

    Using Veras in longer stints is flawed logic I think. The reason his stats are lousy in the shorter stints and better in the longer stints is…. His outings are cut short because he stunk it up! It’s not like Girardi’s telling him hey, I need 3 innings from you every time he goes out. Look up the stats to any starter and find his ERA in outings where he goes 4IP and where he goes 7+IP, guess which ERA will be lower?

    Veras would go longer if he threw strikes, unfortunately he does not… DFA’ing him would help the team right now but everytime anyone starts to feel that way they should look at Bruney. A hard throwing righty with no control discarded several times by another organization while still making peanuts is our top setup man.

    The answer to me is getting rid of Tomko, keep Veras as the last man out of the pen for blowouts and hope he figures it out.

  23. MattG says:

    [Tomko is just] killing time while we waited for Bruney/Marte to get healthy, Melancon to get ready, and Veras/Edwar/Albaladejo to get not-crappy.

    This is certainly true, which then leads to the real question: how do we get Veras off the roster? Because once Bruney & Marte are healthy, and Melancon is ready, there is no room for Tomko OR Veras.

    Which changes the whole complexion of the question. If Veras will be gone once everyone is healthy, then his “upside” is irrelevant.

    First you have to consider: Will everyone be healthy at the same time?

    If the answer is no, you hang with Veras. If the answer is yes, you go with the guy that’s pitching better right now…I think that might still be Veras…

    never mind.

    • That’s why I’m interested in trying to deal both of them preemptively. As it stands now, we can activate Bruney and go with a front of the bullpen of Mo-Bruney-Aceves-Coke-Robertson, meaning we’re only talking about the back two spots in the 7 man pen. One of those two spots is currently occupied by the 6th starter (Hughes/Wang), but I’d rather have one or both of those two spots filled by the Scranton Shuffle of Edwar/Albaladejo/Claggett/Melancon, since they can be rotated at will. I doubt any of those four pitchers would be that much worse than Tomko or Veras, particularly if they’re the 2 least frequently used pitchers in the bullpen.

      Deal now, before we have to start DFA’ing.

  24. King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

    minor league knowledge fail.

    I get JoeG wants a @$@()*_(#%_#$ ANOTHER infielder. Are you telling me there are NO other infielders on the 40 man who can play 3B or SS AT ALL?

    Why wasn’t Cody Ransom replaced on the 40 when he went on the 60 day DL? (yes, i’ve answered my own previous question, now i’d like an answer to this one!)

    Are we really keeping ransom (because of his shockingly awesome jumping skills?) when he comes of the DL?

    Maybe I’m asking for too much, but i find it hard to believe berroa and ransom are the best we can do…

    • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

      wait…ransom isnt even on the 40 man cause of the 60 day dl?

      so what are we doing with One Miranda?!

    • Are you telling me there are NO other infielders on the 40 man who can play 3B or SS AT ALL?

      No, there aren’t. Before you go off on your rant, you could try Googling the Yankees 40 man roster and see for yourself.

      • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

        I must have, which I think is what generated the next line:

        Why wasn’t Cody Ransom replaced on the 40 when he went on the 60 day DL? (yes, i’ve answered my own previous question, now i’d like an answer to this one!)

        • He was replaced on the 40 man when he went on the 60-day DL. He was replaced by Angel Berroa on the 40 man, because Angel Berroa was the best option amongst all the infielders we had in the system not already on the 40-man.

          Which returns us back to the original question: No, there were no other infielders on the 40 man who can play 3B or SS at all.

          • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

            So will we keep Ransom when comes off the DL, on the 25 or otherwise?

            For the sake of discussion, they get rid of Ransom and Berroa, and don’t replace either with a pitcher. One of those spots goes to Nady, and the other could go to somebody who’s not even on the 40 yet…is there an SS or 3B in the system who would be worthy of that roster spot?

    • Bruno says:

      Why wasn’t Cody Ransom replaced on the 40 when he went on the 60 day DL? (yes, i’ve answered my own previous question, now i’d like an answer to this one!)

      Being on the 60day DL takes a player OFF the 40 man. But, even if he was on the 40man, HE’S ON THE DL. Berrora’s here until Nady/Ransom get back.

  25. Bill says:

    i have now been convinced that juan miranda has no future with this organization and is just trade bait to get a crappy reliever like chad qualls. if miranda really had a future here, he’d be up now and veras or tomko would be pitching for the nationals

    • Bruno says:

      Miranda & Veras for Ian Snell? I doubt that solves our ‘pen problem though, plus Snell’s expensive for a reliever so nevermind.

      • Peter Lacock says:

        I vote for optioning Robertson and DFA-ing no one until after the trade deadline.
        Assuming Nady and Molina are someday healthy again, those two, Miranda & Veras, Shelley, Igawa, Edwar Ramirez, Albaladejo, Berroa, Tomko, Kevin Cash, PJ Pilittere and several others should be shopped.

  26. I think Veras’s true self is something along the lines of his 2008 2nd half: 26.1 IP 28H 18BB 34K 1.75 WHIP 4.44 ERA .272 BAA but with a slightly lower WHIP. Expecting Veras to return to his first half form or even produce to the overall stats he produced last season is a bit of a stretch. This production is still better than what Tomko can likely produce.

    However, per Fangraphs, Veras has lost 1MPH on his FB and CRV while losing 4 on his split. That may be something to consider. I’d still say DFA Tomko.

  27. Sam P. says:

    At what point does Kei Igawa enter the discussion as someone to come and pitch in place of Wang?

    I’m 100% kidding, actually make that 110%. You can’t kid more than 110%.

    DFA Tomko is my thought; Veras can sometimes give you that glimmer of hope that he’ll be lights out.

  28. whooboy says:

    DFA Pawlikowski

  29. Bo says:

    Why in the world would they option Robertson? Do they want to fill the pen with unreliable below avg pitchers like Veras and Tomko? Thats not a move that a team with championship aspirations even considers.

  30. cuponoodles says:

    Does anyone know anything about Kroenke? He’s slicin’ and dicin’ in AAA…option for the big leagues?

  31. Jeff says:

    Kroenke is not an option. 15 walks in 27 innings and only 18 k’s is not going to cut it in the major leagues. He has clearly been very lucky on balls put in play to post a 0.98 ERA. He is going to have to improve in these areas to be a real prospect.

  32. [...] As Joe pointed out yesterday, one of the current members of the bullpen will go bye bye to make room for Bruney. Bryan Hoch confirmed with Joe Girardi yesterday that will in fact be a pitcher-for-pitcher move, so any worries about the 13-man pitching staff should end. It would be absurd to option David Robertson given his work during his latest call-up (13.5 K/9, .472 OPS, SSS warning), and such a move would have me seriously questioning the front office’s desire to field the best team. That leaves Tomko and Veras as the two candidates to go, and as bad as he’s looked at times, Veras is ten years younger than Tomko. It really doesn’t matter who they keep and who they cut, because whichever guy stays will be working super low leverage mop up innings anyway. Keep Veras, he’s younger and has a better arm. [...]

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