The bullpen and bench are always in flux

The Mark Teixeira Appreciation Thread
The Cody Ransom Era isn't over quite yet

Think back to April, if that doesn’t cause too much psychological pain. Entering the season, many had questions about the team’s bench and bullpen, and April didn’t do much to eradicate those fears. In fact, with the bullpen pitching to a 6.46 ERA in that first month, they only exacerbated concerns. The bench, once looking deep, was depleted after injuries to Alex Rodriguez and Xavier Nady. While the bench and bullpen isn’t nearly as important as the starting lineup and the starting rotation, good teams usually have a few useful players in both areas. The Yanks, it seemed, did not.

In baseball, a team changes over the course of a season. A team is not the same in April as it is in August. It’s easy to forget that in April if the team is losing. The bullpen was just bad then, and it was tough to see a road to recovery. Ditto the bench. With the Nady injury further sapping the team’s depth, there weren’t many options. It looked like the team might be good, but would lose a few games because of these glaring weaknesses.

We’ve often said that a bullpen’s strength is its malleability. Again, ditto the bench. It’s difficult to find quality bench players and relief pitchers, because if they were good they’d be starting. Even veteran relievers are no guarantee. How many times does a team sign a veteran reliever in the off-season and then immediately see his production dip? Just look at the Royals, who signed Juan Cruz. He’s now looking like Jose Veras, only Cruz is under contract for this year and next for multi-million dollars. Veras was expendable at the league minimum.

Over the course of May the Yankees showed their flexibility and depth by shedding the ineffective parts of the bullpen. They optioned Edwar Ramirez and Jon Albaladejo and DFA’d Jose Veras. Brian Bruney’s injury hurt the bullpen depth a bit, but the Yanks were able to move Al Aceves and Phil Hughes up, much to everyone’s delight. Even David Robertson and Mark Melancon got chances, but as they faltered the Yankees again showed their flexibility by demoting them when needed.

All of a sudden, the bullpen was a strength and it could grow even stronger between now and the playoffs. Brian Bruney has looked better in his last few appearances. If he can get close to his April production, that’s a massive boost. Damaso Marte hasn’t allowed a run in his last five AAA appearances and could join the team soon, possibly for the West Coast swing. Add Chad Gaudin’s dominance of righties, and you have a pretty damn strong bullpen. One of the strongest in the league, in fact.

In early February, before we knew of A-Rod‘s hip injury, the bench looked as deep as any. Among the backups were one of Nick Swisher and Xavier Nady, one of Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera, Jose Molina, and Cody Ransom. That’s a pretty formidable bench. However, the A-Rod and Nady injuries moved Swisher and Ransom to the starting lineup, meaning even lesser players would take their places on the bench. And then there was the period where both catchers were hurt, forcing the Yanks to carry Francisco Cervelli and Kevin Cash. All of a sudde, the depth had dried up.

Fast-forward a few months, and the Yankees once again have a solid bench. They’re replaced Ransom with Jerry Hairston Jr., who plays more positions, is better on defense, and is a better hitter. Getting decent production out of both Melky and Gardner has soften the blow of losing Nady. Jose Molina is back and providing his excellent defense at catcher. True, Ramiro Pena languishes now, but once Brett Gardner gets back the Yanks will have 25 usable players on the roster. How many teams can say that?

The reason that both the bullpen and bench are currently strengths is not that the Yankees acquired quality veterans over the off-season. It’s because they left themselves a lot of flexibility in their roster construction. All of the reserve players either had options or were easily releasable. When they proved they weren’t cutting it, the Yanks made the necessary moves. They were backed into corners in a few instances, but once players came back from injury they were able to compensate. It looks like things are back to where they’d hoped at the start of the season: strong bench, strong bullpen. Crazy thing is, they could get even better in the next few weeks.

The Mark Teixeira Appreciation Thread
The Cody Ransom Era isn't over quite yet
  • http://www.puristbleedspinstripes.com Rebecca-Optimist Prime

    Wait, don’t we always talk about how the Yankees have such a poorly constructed roster?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      I, for one, don’t like how there aren’t ML starting caliber players stashed away in Triple-A in case of an emergency.

      • Thomas

        They could always try to sign Smoltz, Glavine, and Bonds to give them 3 future HOF (maybe only 2) in the minors.

        • Tom Zig

          Yeah I think we should go for the double championship. Shelley Duncan could get two rings in one year!

      • Accent Shallow

        There’s always someone making this argument every offseason. They don’t realize that it’s just not feasible.

  • kimonizer

    Proof that Brian Cashman wields a +1 sword of GMing

    • pete

      ietc

  • Bo

    The bench has been awful the past few years. No speed. No depth. No power bats. When you have 200+ to spend you should be able to have depth. It would have been even better if Nady was around.

    The pen (and the team) was saved by Hughes taking over the set up role.

    • TheLastClown

      Would you rather last offseason’s available portion of the 200+ be spent to acquire replacement-level bench players, or CC, AJ & Tex?

      • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops

        He’s right: Teix is earning $20M this year, while Pujols makes $16M and Prince Fielder makes $6,5M. So for an extra $2,5M we could have had an even better 1st baseman and great depth at Scranton or on the bench to pinch-hit. It’s disgusting Cashman didn’t make that happen. What was he thinking?

    • Dela G

      i guess you’d rather have the red sox’s bench i see

    • pat

      In a way, 200 million to spend is more of a hindrance when looking for bench help. What FA is gonna want to back up Arod and Jeter? Both are superstar players who make tons of money and play every game. Unless someone is content playing a few times a month and pinch running in late innings they’re not gonna come to NY. Most teams get lucky and have a guy like Pena or Figgins come up in their system.

      • Tom Zig

        +1.

      • http://myspace.com/lincolnsworld Link

        +12

    • Tom Zig

      Well I can understand making a case that Hughes saved the bullpen (and temporarily shut up B-Jobbers) but saving the team? Ehhh that’s a stretch.

      I think A-rod coming back, Tex finally hitting, the loose personalities of Swish, AJ and CC, Jeter, Damon, Posada all having resurgences, saved the team. Probably missed a few things that deserve more credit for saving this team than Hughes going to the bullpen.

  • Tom Zig

    You guys forgot to give love to Eric Hinske…

    • mike HC

      Yea. I was just going to comment on that

      • Tom Zig

        Frommmmmm Hinskeeee to Helsinkiiiii…oh my! what a shot!

        • gio

          Is that REALLY what Sterling says?!?!

          • Tom Zig

            No, I wish.

          • Dela G

            no, he says “oh HINSKE WITH YOUR BEST SHOT!”

            • Tom Zig

              Lame. The one I posted is so much cooler. I’m sure the people of Finland would enjoy it too.

              • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

                Hinske with your best shot was thought up by someone from lohud who won a contest.

                • Tom Zig

                  Go figure.

    • mike HC

      There was also the egregious error of leaving Angel Berroa out of the article. I don’t know where the Yanks would be without his contributions. If the Yanks win the Series, he gets sent a ring, right? Obviously

      • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops

        Anthony “My ERA is north of 30” Claggett would get one, too.

        • jsbrendog

          poor guy.

        • Tom Zig

          Shelley Duncan and Josh Towers would as well…am I right?

          • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops

            Steven Jackson fits the bill of “on the roster but never used in a game” too. Not sure about those guys, but I guess they would get one.

            • Salty Buggah

              Everyone who was on the roster get one. Doesn’t matter if they played or not.

  • Salty Buggah

    But but Cashman is the worst GM eva?!?!!

  • Tom Zig

    Cashman has been pretty stealthy with improving the bullpen and bench. Love the stealth moves. Cashman is a ninja!

    • TheLastClown

      Pfffft.

      Blank check, bandbox, can’t pull the trigger on big trades.

      Ninja please.

      • Tom Zig

        Sarcasm? …please be?

        • Salty Buggah

          I think it is.

    • pete
  • A.D.

    Funny how its easier to build bench depth by forcing player to join your team (i.e. Hariston & Hinske) via trade. Then the guys that are willing to sign with a team with no chance of getting regular playing time or to start because of the caliber of starters.

  • CP3

    I thoguht the yanks put marte on the 60 day DL???

    • Dela G

      yeah i heard that too last week

    • Tom Zig

      Retroactive to the day he was put on the 15day

    • Salty Buggah

      It was retroactive to like late-April (I think) so its nothing really.

    • A.D.

      Assuming its retroactive, its already been well over 60 days. Don’t understand why, given that Nady & Wang could easily be put on there at this point.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

        They’re already on the 60-day DL. The official site is wrong. Wang was put on it for Hairston, Nady for Shelley.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Benjamin Kabak

      They did, but it was purely a paperwork move. They wanted to clear a 40-man space without DFAing anyone. I’m not sure who goes though when Marte is really to come back later this week or next.

      • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops

        Cash? Shelley? Garcia?

        • Salty Buggah

          But who does he replace on the 25-man roster?

          D-rob?

          • Ed

            Probably. Coke’s had 2 bad outings so far this month, so I guess if he has a few more bad ones before Marte is ready, he’s a possibility too.

          • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops

            D-Rob makes the most sense. Pena is another possibility. Or they make one of Ace, Gaudin or Hughes the 5th starter and DFA Mitre. It will probably not be Hughes, though. If Mitre gets rocked today and Gaudin comes in to pitch multiple innings, I could see that happening. DFA’ing Mitre also means they don’t have to make another move on the 40-man to get Marte back on.

            • jsbrendog

              how would that work with mitre tho since he is under contract for next year to?

              • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops

                The Yankees have an option for 2010 per cot’s. And even if he were signed for 2010, do you think that would influence their decision? Would they leave him on the 25-man just because he has deal next year?

                • jsbrendog

                  i thought it was a 2 yr deal. wouldn’t he have options left? no?

                  then if not and you dfa him then what. someone else has a chance to grab him?

                • jsbrendog

                  you are correct. after digging through the annals of RAB it did say 1 yr and team option

      • Dela G

        aight thanks for explaining that

  • KW

    Let’s be objective here: the yanks have had a very good run of health this year, so it makes the bench and depth in general look much better. I’m not throwing cold water on Wang/Nady and one month of A-Rod/Posada, but the Yanks haven’t run into a significant run of injuries, particularly to the pitching staff. Let’s hope it stays that way, but the odds are someone will get hurt and the future wont look quite as rosy as it does right now.

    • EPV

      [shhhhhhhhhhhh] don’t say that!

    • Thomas

      This is true that no one has really had huge injuries, but with respect to the offense most of their player rarely get injured. Cano, Jeter, Teixeira, Swisher, and Melky have rarely/never gotten injured in their career. Only Damon, Matsui, Posada, and A-Rod have had any sort of injury problems recently, and two have already spent time on the DL and Matsui is now DH, which keeps him healthy.

      Also, Pettitte and CC almost always surpass 200 innings so it isn’t really a surprise they have been healthy/pitching. The only surprise has been Burnett who has always been injury prone. Because of his youth and movement between the pen and starting, it is a bit difficult to get a grasp on Joba.

      • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

        +a real lot.

      • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

        …would like to see CC not pitch 123 pitches again :)

        he’s great, he’s a horse, but lets let some of these younger arms share some of that load…especially down the stretch when we’re 12.5 up on tampa. (boston who?)

    • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

      We’re like the anti-Mets.

    • Tom Zig

      The Baseball Gods will smite whoever mentions health and Yankees in the same sentence. Its like talking about a no-hitter/perfect game.

    • jsbrendog

      you jinxing cockmouth

  • Eric S

    “All the sudden”?

  • Ivan

    I just wanna say this, who would you want in a big spot Hughes or Bard? lol.

    • Thomas

      I’ve always seen Bard as future Farnsworth, except with a worse breaking ball.

      • Lou Fan 260

        I thought I was watching Farnsworth yesterday.

      • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

        Nah, Bard (generally has better control.

        For a relief pitcher, he’s good. Although Melancon prospect wise matches up well w/him.

    • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

      YUUUUSE.

  • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

    …bench and pen look great now, and i think we have a *little* flexibility for when KW’s horrors come true.

    when do we start talking about who takes Damon’s spot, and who the backup IF guys will be, who the pen will be, and who will be the big surprise from the AAA or AA or Cuban defector getting residence in Spain to become an FA channels?

    (matsui leaves, damon becomes the DH and reserve/5th OF, so its damon’s replacement i’m looking for not Godzilla’s)

    • EPV

      we can talk about that in november

    • jsbrendog

      damon will not duplicate this year’s offensive output next year. i do not see it happening

    • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

      I wouldn’t resign Damon. Holliday please.

      • jsbrendog

        just say no to holliday. the last thing this team needs is another guy over the 30 hump signed to a longterm financially binding contract. the dude couldn’t hit AL pitching. I dont care what he is doing in st louis.

        • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

          Who says long term contract? A five year deal sounds good to me.

          I think the “can’t hit AL pitching” thing is grossly overrated. First of all he didn’t hit badly with the A’s; he just got really hot in St. Louis. That could happen in the AL.

          • jsbrendog

            5 year deal is a longterm financially binding contract. he will want 18-23 mill a yr. no thanks.he is not that good in my opinion

            • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

              Yeah, but it means we’ll lock him up mostly in the prime and before the inevitable decline (hopefully).

              • jsbrendog

                which changes absolutely nothing i just said. it is still a longterm financially contricting contract for which he is not worth.

          • Dela G

            lol 5years = long term

      • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

        for a 1+1 small contract, no reason not to…especially if he can stop throwing the ball so often…

        we throw out names like they’re yesterday’s empty pizza boxes, when in reality that shit’s expensive!

        maybe we save on a few–Damon being one of them–and that buys us another marquis outfielder.

        Tex is set. as are the other 2 infielders…we’ve got to keep them backed up in hitting and outfielders–who wouldn’t like to have a young hot glove in left or right for that matter? i’ve grown to be comfortable with melky/grit in center, and swish somewhere. would love a bigger name in the OF…and if we can bring back Andy cheap…now we’re talking UPGRADES everywhere else (pen and bench per se).

        we can have a much lower payroll next year if things work well…allowing a couple of pinches here and there…like signing Doc as an FA!

        • jsbrendog

          except arod/tex/cc all make MORE moneynxt yr than this one

  • http://gehrig27 Marcos

    One thing I don´t quite understand: “it´s difficult to find relief because if they were good they would be starters”. Come on, that´s basically not true. One simple example: MARIANO RIVERA….

    • TheLastClown

      I believe that point was referring to position players.

      If they were good positional players, they would have a starting gig elsewhere.

      Obviously some pitchers are relievers, and some are damn good. About them, you could still say that if they were good *as a starter* then as a starter should they remain.

      But mostly about bench positional players.

    • Jack

      Mariano Rivera is a failed starter.

      • pat

        Heh, there goes that One simple example.

  • Joba or Hughes-To-the-pen

    How is the bullpen not as important as the rotation in this era of baseball.Half of the World series winners in the World series had dominate bullpens and a average rotation.

    This isn’t the 60 or 70’s.Even the late 90’s dynasty Yankees had a good not great rotation but a stellar bullpen.Look at the Phillies last year.THey wouldn’t win if Lidge,Madison and Romero wasn’t dominate in the Regular and Post-Season.

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