The Unimportant Second Lefty

Optimism running high in Yankees' camp
Open Thread: 2/23 Camp Notes
(Kim Klement/US Presswire)

The Yankees have spent a good portion of the last several offseasons trying to find a competent left-handed reliever, getting next to no return on the millions of dollars spent on proven commodities like Damaso Marte and Pedro Feliciano. Aside from the ownership-driven Rafael Soriano signing, disaster contracts like those have resulted in the Yankees scaling back their spending on non-Mariano Rivera relievers in recent years.

“I used to sign (Paul) Quantrill, (Steve) Karsay, Gabe White, all these veteran relievers,” said Brian Cashman earlier this week. “Now, our bullpen, for the most part, is homegrown or low-risk guys like Cory Wade who we popped off the waiver wire. The bullpen has become a cheap thing for me.”

The pipeline of relievers in the minors — George Kontos, Chase Whitley, Mark Montgomery, Branden Pinder, etc. — is flush with talent, but most of those guys are a year or two away from the big leagues. Thankfully, the big league bullpen is well-stocked save for one final spot that is up for grabs in camp. Given the Yankee’ (and really all of baseball’s) obsession with left-handed relievers, there’s been a bit of an assumption that the final spot could go to a second southpaw like Mike O’Connor, Clay Rapada, or Rule 5 Draft pick Cesar Cabral. That’s not necessarily the case, however.

“I think you could use [a second lefty],” said Joe Girardi yesterday. “You look at our guys in the late innings, you’re probably going to go to them, and you’re not going to worry about the second left-hander, so I don’t think it’s a necessity. But if you get a left-hander that can maybe give you a little distance or that you’re not afraid to use against right-handers, I think it could be valuable.”

Girardi doesn’t exactly come off as sounding desperate for a second lefty to combat the David Ortizes and Carlos Penas of the AL East. There’s definite value in having a competent second lefty, but at the end of the day the most important thing is to have a quality reliever in that spot, regardless of handedness. As Girardi implied, the Yankees are blessed with several righties who are more than capable against lefties, specifically David Robertson.

I am curious to see Cabral this spring, only because he’s not a retread like O’Connor or Rapada and theoretically has some kind of upside at age 23. He’s a fastball-changeup guy, which is the kind of stuff typically used against batters of the opposite hand and not necessarily in left-on-left matchup situations. Cabral was a starter in the minors as recently as last season, so perhaps he can be that second left-hander as a multi-inning type. I don’t want him on the roster just because of the arm he throws with, however. Take the best reliever, figure out the rest later.

Optimism running high in Yankees' camp
Open Thread: 2/23 Camp Notes
  • David Ortiz’s Dealer

    I’d like a 2nd Lefty if he’s a good one and will be used, and given Boone Logan is the 1st lefty, and second one isnt a bad idea.

    • BK2ATL

      I agree with this. People are acting like Boone Logan being the #1 LOOGY is a good thing and great position to be in. Luckily, we still have several RHR who can be as dominant on LHB as RHB.

      I think if one of these guys has a strong spring, Cabral preferred by me, it would serve us best to bring him along on the 25, and somehow work to keep another in the organization just in case. We are pretty deplete of LH relievers at the AA or AAA levels that could contribute this year. We caught fire with Ayala (yeah, I know, but…) and Wade.

  • steve s

    Jeremy Bleich seems to have completely fallen off the radar but he has to be close to being back on track and I understand he did successfully close early in his Stanford career. Perhaps he fits into the lefty bullpen equation somehow along the way.

  • Murderers’ Row Boat

    Anyone But Farnsworth! Karsay You’re Killin’Me!

    I never what was worse, watching them blow leads or knowing they were vastly overpaid while doing it.

  • cranky

    Cabral is intriguing. Really has a +arm. The fastball/change-up IS unusual for a lefty reliever, but he’s got enough speed and movement on his heater to flummox lefty batters and a good enough change to vanquish righties. He was VERY impressive in winter ball (save for his last couple of outings).
    The Yanks need to keep this kid, even if he doesn’t make the big league club right away.
    As for the other lefties, none of them has Cabral’s potential. Rapada is absolute death to LH batters–always has been–but he’s TERRIBLE against righties. He’s the quintessential LOOGY, but the Yanks might not be in need of that. O’Connor is a neverwas.
    As for Jeremy Bleich, he actually could be a viable bullpen candidate soon–but not at the beginning of this season. I wouldn’t give up on him, in any case. Many folks thought he’d always had more potential as a reliever than as a starter. If, as expected, he’s permanently converted to a relief role and winds up looking good in that role in AAA through the first few months of this season, he’s going to be high up on the list for a call-up.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    I’ve learned not to assume Rule 5 guys are more Robert Fish and Jamie Hoffffmannnnn than Johan Santana and Ivan Nova, so I’ll believe it when I see it with Cabral.

    If that last slot goes to a reliever, I’d rather it be someone with some flexibility, like Kontos (who I love simply because he came up and got people out), than a LOOGY type.

    I also think that slot may be better used on Chris Dickerson.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I mangled that first sentence completely. What I meant to say was that I’ve learned not to get excited over Rule 5 guys. I also made an unfunny Jamie Hoffmann joke.

      • Havok9120

        It actually made perfect sense to me, bad joke aside.

  • David Ortiz’s Dealer

    as a rule 5 guy, Cabral makes the team or is gone back to where he came from.

    • Garcia

      Isn’t it different for Cabral though because he’s been taken in the Rule 5 twice – once by the Rays, then by the Royals (whom we purchased him from)? I think he can accept a minor league assignment or opt for free agency if he doesn’t make the team. Someone correct me if I’m wrong. I think it’s like a Zach Kroenke thing.

      • Havok9120

        You are correct.

      • m1kew

        You are correct. If the Yankees do not keep Cabral on their 25 man roster then he can become a free agent. I also believe Cabral is a potential gem and I think the Yankees will try to work out a deal with him to keep him in the organization which may involve keeping him on the 40 man roster but assigning him to Scranton if he does not make the 25 man roster. I do think the choice for the 25th spot on the ML roster will most likely to a choice between two players the Yankees would prefer not to lose – Cabral and Dickerson.

  • Bronx Byte

    It can’t hurt to stash a lefty or 2 at AAA in case something happens to Logan.

  • Rookie

    I generally don’t like the idea of LOOGYs. But if Rapada is still capable of putting up the same kind of numbers against lefties that he has so far in his career, it might be worth it to have him come in and keep Gonzalez and Ortiz, and maybe even Ellsbury, under control one time through the lineup. If he can keep up that kind of effectiveness against lefties, he could just walk the one righty he would face in the process.

    • Sweet Dick Willie

      Rapada is a true LOOGY; his platoon splits against righties are horrendous.

      And while he has been very successful against lefties, he’s not perfect, and having him intentionally walk someone to get to get to a very good lefty (A-Gon or Ortiz) is just asking for trouble, IMO.

  • Monterowasdinero

    Cory Wade is the de facto 2nd lefty. The guy throws 3-1 changeups to lefties for strikes with the bases loaded. Girardi sometimes uses Boone so early in the game that there is no lefty for the late innings but…

    we don’t need one.

    • STONE COLD Austin Romine


  • Tom

    With all the off days in April (which means they can limit that last man in the pen to low leverage situations), why not use Cabral on the last spot initially, assuming he pitches well in Spring training… sure he probably will have reverse splits and is not a LOOGY, but if he is an effective reliever who throw hard that is a valuable arm in the pen (and maybe Mo can teach him a cutter).

    I’d rather have that then get 3-4 total innings out of Clay Rapada in April. And if at some point the Yankees want to demote him maybe giving him a shot on the club makes him more likely to decide to stay with the Yankees.

    • jsbrendog

      i like your last point. by takin him with you and seeing what he’s got he may want to stay if they decide not to keep him. also, however, he may do well enough to think he can get a guarnateed bp spot somewhere else…dems the breaks

  • Juke Early

    Only thing Yankees proved signing P Feliciano was they really don’t pay attention to the Mets. After 50+ seasons— 90% who ever is getting these guys is praying for rain, the park & other things to break their way.

    As for H-ortiz — grow some, then throw them at the big cheater, early & often.

  • Matt DiBari

    I’m not sure how the narrative that “ownership” signs relievers to long term contracts over Brian Casman’s kicking and screaming started, but it needs to stop.

    The Yankees signed Feliciano to an awful deal mere weeks before Levine signed Soriano. Brian Cashman was willing to sign terrible multi year relief contracts as recently as LAST YEAR. There is no evidence that he has changed that philosophy.

    • BK2ATL

      I think the narrative is that ownership forced the signing of SORIANO, over Cashman’s objections. He’s pretty much stated as much. Yes, he signed Feliciano, but he wasn’t going to sign Scott Downs.

      The difference at the time was that both Downs and Soriano were Type A FA’s, and would’ve cost the Yankees their 1st round draft pick on top of high salaries. Feliciano was a Type B, and that turned out to be just as bad a signing.

      I think that the current thinking is that there is no real reason to chase after FA relievers on long-term contracts, since the Yankees have an abundance of quality, effective bullpen arms on the roster and on the farm. This is a place were cost savings can be significant. The owners almost railroaded that plan with the Soriano deal. Let’s see how the Hamels thing plays out now, with an eye towards 2014, and having to deal with both Cano and Granderson in the very near future.

      • Matt DiBari

        My whole point is that Brian Cashman has proven himself just as willing to sign multi year relief contracts, and since Cashman signed the awful Feliciano contract at almost the same time Levine signed the awful Soriano contract, its disingenuous to suggest that Cashman learned his lesson and “ownership” hasn’t