Kelley’s shakiness, bullpen workload could push Yankees into reliever market

The ugly truth of the last three half-seasons
Yankees call up Jim Miller, send Jose Ramirez to Triple-A

I was only partially paying attention, but did hear Michael Kay mention last night that the Yankees lead the league in relief appearances of more than four outs this season. They have 80 such relief appearances, seven more than the White Sox. That’s basically one relief appearance of 4+ outs per game at this point of the year. Last season they only had 101 such outings, for comparison.

On an individual level, Dellin Betances leads baseball with 22 relief appearances of at least four outs while Adam Warren is tied for fourth with 15 such appearances. (Ex-Yankees property Tommy Kahnle and Dan Otero rank second and third, coincidentally.) Betances and Warren are on pace for 96 and 86.2 innings this season, respectively, at a time when only 12 relievers have thrown 86+ innings in a season since 2009.

Joe Girardi has been very good at keeping his relievers fresh and controlling their workload in recent years, but it does seem both Betances and Warren may be starting to wear down a bit these last few days. Warren struggled in back-to-back outings last week (and last night, but he escaped the jam) and Betances just hasn’t looked as sharp. This could just be a case of two relievers going through rough stretches at the same time, obviously.

“I know when I have to give them days off, and I understand that,” said Girardi to Chad Jennings following last night’s game. “Betances has been a starter in his career and has logged a lot of innings, and so has Warren. But there’s times where you just say, ‘You know what? I have to give them two days and get them back recharged.'”

Shawn Kelley’s return from the disabled list early last month was supposed to make life easier on Betances and Warren, though he has put 14 men on base and allowed five runs in seven innings of work since returning. He loaded the bases with one out on two singles and a hit batsman in last night’s game before escaping with two strikeouts. Yeah, the end result was a zero on the scoreboard, but again Kelley was shaky. He hasn’t been able to move back into a late-inning role just yet.

Between the general bullpen workload and Kelley’s recent ineffectiveness, not to mention the season-long inability to find a decent sixth reliever and long man, the Yankees could find themselves in the market for a relief pitcher or two at the trade deadline. In fact, Ken Rosenthal reported yesterday that New York will “seek to add another reliever to increase their depth and reduce the burdens on Betances and Warren,” so this isn’t just my crazy idea.

Now, obviously, bullpen help is a secondary concern at this point. The Yankees need rotation and lineup help much more desperately than they do another reliever, especially considering their internal options. Even with Preston Claiborne on the Triple-A Scranton DL they still have interesting hard-throwers like Danny Burawa and Diego Moreno in the minors. Matt Daley is still around as well, plus acquiring a starter could push someone like Chase Whitley into a relief role.

The Yankees received some fine bullpen relief work in May (3.53 ERA and 2.85), but the relievers worked hard and had to throw 94.1 innings. (They threw 79.1 innings in April and 80 in May, for comparison.) The bullpen’s overall performance suffered last month (4.28 ERA and 4.18 FIP), possibly as a result of that workload. Getting rotation help and more length from the starters will lighten the load on the relievers, but at this point the Yankees could also wind up having to add another bullpen arm before the deadline.

The ugly truth of the last three half-seasons
Yankees call up Jim Miller, send Jose Ramirez to Triple-A
  • Dan

    So basically they need 2 SPs, an OF, an IF, and a RP . . . if you have to trade for a whole new team, it’s not worth it to be buyers.

    • Mike Myers

      It woould be nice to have everything…but they dont NEED everything. Just enough to squeak into the playoffs.

      1SP, 1RP could easily help them do that.

      • hogsmog

        Also a baseball player who can hit the baseball with his baseball bat.

        A good relief core helps win close games, but the games won’t be close without enough offense. I think they need a little of both.

    • Michael

      Ditto…if you need that much, you need to rebuild…of course next year they’ll have a 40 year old 3B, Sabathia will be a year older, only two more years of Beltran, and who knows at shortstop and second base, so why rebuild……Cash will make a splash just to keep the ratings up.

    • JGYank

      Well CC and Pineda are already 2 SPs. Just need one more and a bat. A reliever is a small need and the pen has done very well overall. Plus if they get CC and Pineda back and add a SP, Phelps, Nuno, and Whitley can all go back to the pen, so the entire staff would improve without getting a RP.

    • Derek Jeter

      100% agree! Too many pieces are needed. They should just ride this out and hope for the best.

  • Ben

    Just go get a good starter or two and you can move two of whitley/phelps/nuno into a relief role.

    I have no problem with them leading in 4 out relief appearances, these guys are used to throw 150-180 innings a year. We keep hearing to use them ala Mariano circa 1996, he was fine too.

  • ropeadope

    Don’t we still have Heath Bell stashed away?

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Nope. Released.

    • Need Pitching & Hitting


    • CMed21

      No thankfully, he’s even worse than anyone currently in the bullpen. Can’t even get AAA players out, yuck.

      • ropeadope

        @ Jorge, NP&H, CMed21 – Thank you all, wasn’t aware of the release.

  • JGYank

    One more quality reliever could make this pen really good. I think we could a LHP to assist Thornton (who has been stepping up lately). Preferably someone not named Nuno. Maybe Lindgren could make reach MLB by the end of the year…

    • JGYank

      *could use a LHP

  • ALZ

    I don’t think 4 out appearances is a bad thing though, if they can keep the pitch count low. Rather they be able to stretch it and work more off days for their pitchers than just doing 1 and done.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    A lot of folks have come on here wanting your high-leverage guys in there for high-leverage innings earlier in the game, which has actually been happening, but I’ve been afraid as to Warren, Betances, and Kelley getting overused for a while now. Add to that Kelley’s injury troubles and the brunt has certainly been on the other two. Warren has not looked as consistently dominant as he was early on already.

    A big part of the problem has been the other half of the bullpen being pretty patchwork thus far. We’ve been through a ton of long men and, while this happens sometimes, it’d be nice for some reliable pieces to stick in the back of the pen. This is why it’s the back of the pen, though.

    There was some shitting on Ramirez after last night, but it all looks like learning curve to me thus far. We don’t just pop them out perfectly.

  • CMed21

    How bout Capuano, he got released today and we can replace Huff with him and even replace Nuno in the rotation. He can’t be worse than either.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      I’d be game.

    • trr

      yeah, worth a try…

  • Giuseppe Franco

    It would be great if they can get McGee from the Rays.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      That would cost them much more than he’d be worth.

    • willie w

      it would be great if we could get clayton from the dodgers and hernandez from the mariners

  • ALZ

    Bit off topic, but what about Capuano for the starter role. ERA for his career is 4.28, he isn’t great but he really might be an upgrade over Nuno and Whitley(I think he just needs a breather, not giving up on him, but he needs a breather).

    • mitch

      yeah i definitely think he’s worth a look.

    • tom

      He has to stretch out first. He has yet to make a start this year and pitched 31 innings over 28 games.

  • Keddard Johnson

    The pen is their one strength. When you’re in the market for everything you’re in the hunt for nothing. Sell and see what you have in the kids. Purge the albatross contracts over the next couple years, rebuild around young guys. Tanaka is your Andy, Delin is your Mariano, they need a Jorgie a Bernie and a Jeter to get a good young core.

    And these people clamoring for this player or this position are the same people who said Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew would solve all of our problems. They have about as much credibility as Dick Cheney on Iraq. You know nothing John Snow.

    • Holland

      Reasonable idea but, given what you’ve seen lately, is it at all an option for this FO?

      No, it’s not. Chances are best that the FO breaches $230m next year by acquiring a name SS, 2B, likely 3B, and 2 starters.

  • TWTR

    Given their multiple holes and potential internal options, I think that would be a poor use of scarce resources.

    I think Ramirez, for example, can still be a reliable option.

    • mitch

      I’d put bullpen help at a distant 4th behind another starter, infielder, and outfielder. Add another starter that can make it through the 6th inning consistently and the bullpen guys will start getting more rest.

      • TWTR

        I am more in the do-nothing camp, unless it means trading young for young, but I realize that isn’t going to happen.

        They are probably getting two starters back; whether or not they remain is an open question.

        The offense is horrendous, but again, I would only be interested in young players.

  • Mike HC

    I think this is the major reason we are keeping our heads (barely) above water in spite of our poor run differential. The back end of the bullpen is the strength of the team, we have to use it. I would bet on these guys being able to withstand the big workload, and Girardi is great with the bullpen in comparison to the rest of the league. 96 innings is starting to push that range though. Nice to bring that down more in the high 80’s.

  • Craig

    What about a run at Papelbon (just threw up a little)?

    I would imagine he would only require a mid-level prospect in exchange for his salary relief.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Meh. I don’t want to get caught up in names. I just want someone who can keep the team in the game a bit more when the starter’s not going six innings.

      • Craig

        I agree, but he has the upside of closing if something were to go awry and he’s been throwing very well for the last couple of months.

        He would be the equivalent of a BP salary dump (I believe). If this allowed the Yankees to get a quality arm for $$ and to keep our prospects, then I am all for it.

        The value he could provide compared to prospect cost makes the case for me.

        That said…he’s a dick, so I am not going to be upset if the Yankees didn’t get him.

        • TWTR

          With all their offensive needs, you want to commit what could amount over $30m to redundant bullpen help>

          • TWTR

            And they still have to give Robertson a new contract.

          • Jorge Steinbrenner

            Not too mention the purely unscientific observation that good closers make shitty sixth inning guys.

        • cooolbreeez

          Some guys just don’t belong in pinstripes. He’s one of them.

  • vin

    I think the best way to fix the pen is to fix the rotation. Not only would the team likely get more depth from their starters, but Whitley/Nuno/Phelps can get pushed to the pen. CC replaces Whitley, Hammel-type replaces Nuno for example.

  • willie w

    looks like Joe want Dellin to either burn out at an early age or need TJ surgery

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      What’s your solution?

  • RetroRob

    Strengthening the rotation means the Nuno’s and Whitely can give depth and length out of the pen.

  • mick taylor

    should have kept joba.. he is still better than kelley and thorton. he should get better after he heals from his injuries

  • willie w

    The Tigers had three relievers among the American League’s top 12 in appearances this season entering Saturday. Two of them, Joba Chamberlain and Al Alburquerque, have injury histories that include Tommy John surgery. The other, Ian Krol, is in his first full Major League season

  • willie w

    Asked whether he felt the Yankees had the pieces in place to win right now, Cashman sounded far from convinced that was the case.

    “I’m not wired to think that way,” the GM said. “I’m wired to think that we’ve got to find ways to improve. That’s probably the grounds for my job description.

    “I’m ready to rock and roll.”