The Pros and Cons of Putting Luis Severino in the Bullpen

(Scranton Times-Tribune)
(Scranton Times-Tribune)

Last night, in preparation for a call-up later this week, the Yankees had right-hander Luis Severino throw 2.1 innings in relief for Triple-A Scranton. He allowed two hits and no runs and struck out five, so everything went well. Rosters expand on Thursday and Severino will apparently be among the first wave of call-ups.

The Yankees essentially have three options with Severino for the final month of the season. The three:

  1. Leave him in Triple-A and let him pitch in the postseason.
  2. Call him up and put him in the rotation.
  3. Call him up and put him in the bullpen.

The Yankees are going with option No. 3 and that’s fine. All three are fine, really. They all have their pros and cons. Option No. 1 would have allowed Severino to continue working on his changeup in games that don’t matter. Option No. 2 would have given him a chance to work on his changeup in games that do matter. Option No. 3? Well, that’s what we’re here to discuss.

I know we’re all still scarred from the Joba Rules and all that, but there are some very real benefits to letting a young starting pitcher prospect — Severino has eclipsed the rookie limit of 50 innings, but for all intents and purposes, he’s a prospect — work out of the bullpen. Teams do it all the time. There are also some potential drawbacks. Let’s discuss them as they pertain to Severino.

Pro: He’ll help the Yankees win

In case you hadn’t noticed, the middle relief kinda sucks right now. Tyler Clippard and Adam Warren are not Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman, but by and large they’ve done done the job in the seventh and eighth inning. Everything before them is shaky. We’ve seen too much Anthony Swarzak and Blake Parker these last few weeks.

Severino has the potential to be dominant in relief. Heck, we saw him dominate out of the bullpen a few weeks ago. He struck out ten and allowed one unearned run in 8.1 innings of relief with the Yankees last month, including 4.1 shutdown innings against the Mets on August 3rd.

Simply put, the middle innings are a total mess right now and Severino is the best arm available to the Yankees. They’re still trying to make a run at a postseason spot — as they should! — and Severino is a potential solution to their bullpen problem. Putting him in a relief role improves the roster.

Con: He won’t get to work on his changeup

The Yankees sent Severino to Triple-A a few weeks back because a) he was getting hammered as a big league starter, and b) he really needs to work on his changeup. He wasn’t throwing it at all and Severino even admitted he lost confidence in it. That’s not good. It needed to be fixed and the minors were the place to do it.

Severino went to Triple-A with orders to work on his changeup and actually throw it in games, and by all accounts he’s done that. The results haven’t been pretty since his latest demotion (11.1 IP, 19 H, 8 R, 3 BB, 16 K in two starts) but that’s not a surprise because he’s throwing his third best pitch more than he normally would. Hitters can sit on it. That’s what happens.

Unless the Yankees tell Severino to continue throwing his changeup in September — that seems unlikely because winning is the priority and they’ll want him to use his best pitches to get outs — he’s not going to throw his changeup out of the bullpen. The development of the pitch may stagnate during his time as a reliever, which impacts his ability to be a starter down the road.

Pro: He’ll build confidence

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Gosh, Severino was so bad as a starter with the Yankees earlier this season. So, so bad. He has a 7.19 ERA (4.73 FIP) in 51.1 big league innings this year, and that includes his stellar relief work. When you get smacked around that much, how could it not hurt your confidence? Severino is only human. Fail at something that spectacularly and you can’t help but doubt yourself, even a little. It’s human nature.

Pitching out of the bullpen and having success is a good way for Severino to rebuild his confidence. It’s pretty clear that won’t happen as a starter. Not this year, at least. He’s had zero success in that role in 2016. Severino has pitched well as a reliever and he has the tools to continue pitching well in that role now that he’s locating his slider down and away from righties more consistently. You can’t measure confidence, but it is absolutely important. The confidence he builds as a reliever can carry over when he returns to the rotation. We see it happen around the league all the time.

Con: He’s not going to build up innings

Between the triceps injury in May and his stint in the bullpen, Severino has only thrown 133.2 innings this season. He threw 161.2 total innings last year, and unless he’s the most heavily used reliever in baseball history in September, Severino is not going to match last season innings total, nevermind build on it and continue stretching out his arm. That’s kind of a problem if the plan is indeed to put him in the rotation next year.

There’s always the option to send Severino to winter ball, but one thing at a time. Gotta get through September before sending him home to the Dominican Republic for winter ball becomes a serious discussion. Right now the apparent plan to use Severino out of the bullpen in September means he won’t increase his workload this season. He still won’t be ready to be a 200-ish inning starter next season. Letting Severino start in September, either in Triple-A or MLB, better allows him to accumulate innings and build up arm strength.

* * *

I both am and am not surprised the Yankees are calling up Severino as soon as rosters expand. I’m surprised because I thought they were really prioritizing his changeup development and would leave him in Triple-A through the postseason, so he could start and really build up innings. At the same time, I’m not surprised because they are still hanging around the wild card race and absolutely need another reliever, and Severino is their best option.

I don’t love seeing Severino jerked back and forth between starter and reliever, Triple-A and MLB. The Yankees don’t exactly have a stellar track record when it comes to developing high-end pitching prospects. Severino can definitely help them in relief though, and while I’m sure they believe his long-term future lies in the rotation, the best place for him right now is in the bullpen. That role has some real benefits. Enough to outweigh the negatives? The Yankees sure seem to believe so.

Guest Post: The Future of the Big Three Relievers

The following is a guest post from longtime reader Don Sullivan, who is smart enough to avoid the comments. Don wrote about the future of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman.

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

It wasn’t too long that the Yankees were playing pretty well, was it? A big part of their success has been their bullpen. Chapman, Miller, and Betances form a historic trio. There is no denying that a phenomenal bullpen can turn a good team into a great team. The question that Brian Cashman and company have to be honest with themselves in asking is, “are we a good team?” If the answer is yes, then you keep the bullpen status quo; if the answer is no, it is time to shop. In my opinion, the magic number is somewhere between 8-12 games under .500 now that we are nearly 1/3 of the way through the year in which the answer is shop.

This post will explore the future of each of the big three and ramifications/expected returns of unloading each one.

(*Disclaimer: I am more of a fan of trades that bring in talent compared to unloading contracts. However, the Yankees do have some albatross contracts to unload.)

Move #1 – Dellin Leaves Home

Out of the three relievers, I would be most inclined to trade Betances (gasp!). In my opinion, not only is Betances the most valuable (youngest/cheapest/most years of team control) but he is also the most enigmatic. He is also the only reliever in which I think the Yankees can trade and include a bad contract with. Relievers are fickle, history tells us there are very few of them who enjoy consistently great careers.

Can Betances be one of the few? Absolutely, but I would rather cash in on his value now, which probably cannot be any higher. Is Betances enough of a sweetener to make a team like the Rangers (5.20+ bullpen ERA) bite and take on Jacoby Ellsbury‘s contract (also note their current CF is Ian Desmond)? Possibly. Maybe throw in a tertiary bullpen piece like Chasen Shreve or some cash to get it done. Rangers ownership has shown the propensity to spend and after last year’s debacle, they may be the perfect partner to unload Ells. The only way I am trading Betances is if the other team will take on a Ellsbury or a Chase Headley type contract. I am not personally trading Betances for controllable talent (unless I am blown away).

Move #2 – Cashman cashes in on Chapman

Aroldis is the most accomplished of the three and also has the most explosive stuff (which is really saying something). Odds are the Yankees will not dole out the big bucks to keep Chapman after 2016. Trading Chapman comes with one huge caveat, if you keep him you are guaranteed a first round draft pick when he bolts in free agency.(Recent first round picks have been Aaron Judge, James Kaprielian, Ian Clarkin, etc.)

Also of note, Chapman has been the definition of a work horse throughout his career and Joe Girardi would not have to worry about burning him out. Chapman has pitched five times in six days (2013) and six times in eight days (2012) during his career. Additionally, Chapman probably has the lowest trade value because of his limited amount of team control (half a season).

Given the Yankees farm system and current needs, I would definitely deal Chapman for either a young, controllable starter or a third baseman. The Pirates would seem to be the perfect trade partner as they know Chapman from the division and need to dramatically improve their bullpen (3.93 bullpen ERA). For me either Jameson Taillon or Ke’Bryan Hayes get it done.

Move #3 – Move on from Miller

Andrew Miller has been all the Yankees could hope for and more.  His performance has been gaudy and he has proven to be the consummate teammate. He is also signed until 2018 at $9M per year, which is extremely reasonable. I don’t know if his trade value is as high as Betances, but it is certainly higher than Chapman’s.

I do think that Miller can get a similar package to that of Ken Giles, though probably slightly less. Miller is the superior player but Giles is controlled for a longer period of time/cheaper. However, I do think a Vincent Velasquez type talent in return for Miller is not at all unreasonable. The Dodgers would seemingly salivate if Miller were available. They backed out of the Chapman deal based on off the field concerns that Miller does not carry. I would ask the Dodgers for Julio Urias (unlikely), but settle for Jose De Leon, who is much more likely.

All in all, if the Yankees choose to deal, I believe the smartest action is to move two of the three.  If the team manages to improve and play well, it still may be worth trading one of the three, however the deal better bowl you over. Of course, my trade proposals suck.

Chasen Shreve’s homer problem is too big for the Yankees to ignore

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

For six innings plus two outs last night, the Yankees and Blue Jays played a tight game that really could have gone either way. Toronto led 3-1 at the time but a two-run deficit in Yankee Stadium is far from insurmountable. Ivan Nova then hit Edwin Encarnacion with his 103rd pitch, ending his night with two outs in the seventh. It was a rock solid performance from Ivan.

Joe Girardi went to Chasen Shreve for the left-on-left matchup with Michael Saunders after Nova was lifted. It did not go well:

Chasen Shreve play by play

Three batters after Nova was removed, the 3-1 deficit had turned into a 7-1 deficit. Shreve allowed two home runs and a double off the wall, and all three hits came in two-strike counts. He went back out to start the eighth and got a line out to right field and a long fly ball to the warning track in left. Four of the six batters Shreve faced hit the ball to at least the warning track. Yikes.

Unfortunately, this was not just one bad outing for Shreve. He has now allowed seven home runs in 19 innings this season — all seven have come in his last 13.2 innings! — and, if you go back to last August and September, Shreve has been taken deep 14 times in his last 36.2 innings. I mean, holy crap. No other reliever has give up more than eleven homers since August 1st of last season and only four have allowed as many as ten (J.J. Hoover, Steve Geltz, Joel Peralta, Carlos Villanueva).

It goes without saying allowing 14 homers in the span of 36.2 innings is a huge problem, even if those 36.2 innings are split across two seasons. Nine of those 14 home runs have come on fastballs, three have come on splitters, and two have come on sliders, so it’s not like one pitch is consistently hurting Shreve. Hitters are putting good swings on everything. Remember, he gave up the double off the wall and the fly ball to the warning track last night too. Even the non-homers have been loud.

“Early in the year, I think it was just them jumping on fastballs early in the count,” said Shreve to Chad Jennings following last night’s game. “Tonight it was just falling behind. Small ballpark, and if you make mistakes, they’re going to hit them. Especially this team. They hit a lot of home runs.”

Shreve was very good for the Yankees early last season, and especially when Andrew Miller was on the DL for a month. He had a 1.77 ERA (3.16 FIP) in 40.2 innings from April though July last year and he pitched his way into the Circle of Trust™. Shreve struggled big time in August and September, and everyone chalked it up to fatigue. It was totally believable too. He was great in Spring Training and very good the first few weeks of the season. Then, the dingers. Oh the dingers.

It’s reached the point where the Yankees have to consider sending Shreve down to Triple-A for two reasons. One, to hopefully help get Shreve back on track and effective. Two, to get a more reliable reliever in the big league bullpen. I don’t see how you could trust a pitcher that homer prone in anything other than pure mop-up duty, and Girardi still uses Shreve in semi-important spots. There’s no real indication he’ll slide down the pecking order either.

Who replaces Shreve in the bullpen? The Yankees have some options. Tyler Olson, James Pazos, and the recently signed Neal Cotts are available if the team wants a left-on-left matchup guy for the middle innings, something they lack right now. (Shreve has had a sizeable reverse split throughout his big league career.) Johnny Barbato is primary right-handed option. I guess they could always try Chad Green in relief too, or maybe scrap heap pickups J.R. Graham and Layne Somsen.

I’d probably go with Cotts myself — he held lefties to a .178/.243/.330 (.251 wOBA) batting line with a 23.9% strikeout rate last season — but you could make a case for Olson or Pazos or Barbato or whoever. Heck, they could replace Shreve with a shuttle spot and cycle in relievers as necessary. Either way, the point is Shreve is struggling far too much — especially with the home run ball — to remain on the roster. He’s been an ongoing problem.

I thought Shreve’s performance early last season earned him a chance to show August and September was a fluke, and now we’re seeing it’s not. He’s still giving up a ton of home runs and Girardi can’t rely on him right now. Shreve’s a liability. No other way to put it. Pitchers who give up seven homers in their last 13.2 innings and 14 homers in their last 36.2 innings tend to find themselves in the minors. I think it’s time to make the move for Shreve, both to help the bullpen and help Shreve figure out whatever the hell is going wrong.

Managing a bullpen isn’t easy, but sometimes it can get needlessly complicated

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Two nights ago Nathan Eovaldi was removed from a start after only six innings despite retiring 18 straight batters (!) and throwing only 85 pitches. He held the Diamondbacks to one run on one hit and no walks. They hit two balls out of the infield. It was the kind of start the Yankees have been getting far too infrequently this season. Eovaldi was cruising and he looked as good as he’s looked at any point since coming to New York.

Rather than send Eovaldi back out for the seventh inning, Joe Girardi pulled the plug and went to Dellin Betances, opting to turn the game over to his dynamic bullpen. Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman handled the eighth and ninth innings. Giving the ball to Betances is never a bad move — he did walk the first two batters, which was pretty unnerving — but it seemed like Eovaldi had earned another inning.

“I thought I was going to go out there, but I wasn’t disappointed with those three guys coming in,” said Eovaldi to George King after the game. Girardi added, “If I got them set up and they are rested, I am going to go to them. I could have (sent Eovaldi back out), but I am going to take my chances 99% of the time with Betances, Miller and Chapman.”

The Yankees had a two-run lead at the time and Eovaldi was preparing to face the 2-3-4 hitters for the third time, so with the team in need of a win, Girardi played it safe. Again, it’s hard to blame him given the bullpen he has at his disposal. The move was first guessed as much as any pitching change can be first guessed, and the second guessing was rampant as soon as Betances walked the first two batters.

Then, last night, Girardi did it again. Ivan Nova held to Athletics to one run in six innings and he had thrown only 62 pitches. 62 pitches! Rather than stick with his starter, Girardi again went to his big three relievers, who did the job and closed out the eventual 4-1 win. “There’s a reason we put them together down there and it’s for games like today and yesterday,” said Girardi to Billy Witz afterward.

I wanted to write something about the bullpen and bullpen management in general, but I couldn’t come up with a coherent format. I’m just going to list some thoughts using Wednesday’s and Thursday’s game as jumping off points. Got it? Good.

1. Betances needs regular work. Betances is rather unique for many reasons. He’s physically huge, he has unbelievable stuff, the results are historically great, yadda yadda yadda. Dellin has also had well-documented trouble keeping his mechanics in check, which is why it never worked out as a starter. The bullpen agrees with him because, as Betances has said, the regular work allows him to keep his mechanics tight. Yes, he throws fewer innings as a reliever, but he works more often, and that helps.

Betances had two days off prior to Wednesday and giving him three days off between appearances is when it starts to get tricky. He’s a guy who needs regular work to remain effective. It’s a tough thing for Girardi to balance, the need to get Dellin work and keep him rested for the long season. Is it really a surprise Betances came out and walked the first two batters — he had walked three batters all season going in Wednesday’s game, and two of the three walks were on Opening Day — after having two days off? Not really. The man has to pitch.

2. Assigned innings can complicate things. Girardi loves loves loves to assign his relievers set innings. It makes bullpen management simple and it allows players to settle into a routine. Ask relievers and they’ll tell you they like knowing exactly when they’ll be used. They like having a set innings. Players are creatures of habit, and when they have an unpredictable schedule, it’s tough to have a set routine.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

As expected, Betances has settled in as the seventh inning guy and Miller the eighth inning guy since Chapman returned. Girardi simply bumped everyone back an inning. Most nights this is no big deal, but we’ve already seen some instances in which Dellin warmed up in the seventh, did not pitch, then Miller came in for the eighth. That’s the formula. Eighth inning guys pitch the eighth inning.

Girardi had Betances warming in the sixth inning Wednesday even while Eovaldi cruised, and since he was warming up, chances are he was going to pitch. The Yankees would have had to really break the game open for Dellin to sit down. So, in that case, why not let Eovaldi go out for the seventh, and if he gets through it clean, use Betances in the eighth rather than Miller just because it’s his inning? There should be wiggle room with those assigned innings.

(Betances was not warming up during the sixth inning Thursday, probably because he had thrown 31 pitches Wednesday. Girardi had to back off a little bit.)

3. The batter to batter strategy. By far, my least favorite Girardi move is going batter to batter with a starter. You know what I’m talking about. When the starter appears to be nearing the end of the line, he goes back out to start the next inning anyway, then is lifted after allowing a leadoff base-runner. It happens all the time — how many times do you think a starter got through an inning clean when his leash was one base-runner? — and all around the league.

Sending Eovaldi and Nova back out for the seventh and hating the whole batter to batter approach seem like conflicting ideas. There should never be a blanket one size fits all strategy though, right? It’s one thing to send Eovaldi back out when he’s retired 18 straight — or Nova when he’s getting ground ball after ground ball and had thrown only 62 pitches — and another to send, say, CC Sabathia back out when he’s already allowed three runs and a bunch of right-handed hitters are due up. There’s a certain feel to each game that has to be considered.

4. What happened to only using two of the big three per games? This sort of relates to point No. 2 and the answer is simple: the Yankees need every win they can get right now. They don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing relievers each game with an eye on tomorrow. If they have a lead in the late innings, they have to nail it down, and the best way to do that is with Betances, Miller, and Chapman. Perhaps the Yankees can climb back into the race in a few weeks, allowing Girardi to use only two of the three each night. Until then, it’s all hands on deck.

* * *

I would have sent Eovaldi and Nova back out for the seventh inning. I was actually really surprised when Betances came running out of the bullpen last night. I didn’t think Girardi would pull Nova with his pitch count so low. Girardi spent most of April talking about the need to get more length from his starters, and here he was gifted back-to-back very good outings, and he pulled the plug early each time.

It worked these last two days. I don’t think this is something that can continue all season though. When you’ve got a starter on a roll like Eovaldi and Nova last night, sometimes you have to let them handle that seventh (and eighth) inning to preserve the bullpen. Betances, Miller, and Chapman can’t pitch in every single win. They’ll be toast by August. Using the big three is mighty tempting. There also has to be some sense of bullpen preservation, and starts like the ones turned in Eovaldi and Nova give Girardi an opportunity to take his foot off the gas.

Chapman is back, and now the Yankees have to figure out the middle innings

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The back-end of the bullpen is an undeniable strength for the Yankees. A case can be made Aroldis Chapman is the best reliever in baseball. The same is true of Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances. All three are Yankees, so when it comes to the late innings of close games, Joe Girardi‘s collection of power arms is unmatched. They’re playing six-inning ballgames.

And yet, despite that obvious bullpen strength, the game got away from the Yankees last night because other members of the bullpen let things get out of hand. The Royals took a quick 4-0 lead in the first inning, the Yankees battled back to cut the deficit to 4-3 by the fifth inning, then Nick Goody and Phil Coke turned that 4-3 deficit into a 7-3 deficit in the span of four batters.

“The bridge to those (late innings) guys is extremely important,” said Joe Girardi to Chad Jennings after the game. “Goody has pitched extremely well up to that point. He did not tonight. Cokey kind of saved our bullpen a little bit tonight. With the three one-inning guys that you want to use when the games are really close, those other guys need to step up and bridge the gap. Tonight we weren’t able to do it.”

A few weeks ago that middle innings bridge looked very strong. Chasen Shreve had a dominant Spring Training and came out of the gate with six scoreless innings to start the regular season. Johnny Barbato won a job in camp and started his big league career by striking out nine of the first 23 batters he faced (39.1%). Heck, even scrap heap pickup Kirby Yates opened the season pitching well.

Adding Chapman to Miller and Betances was not only going to improve the late innings, it was also supposed to improve the middle innings by pushing Shreve and Barbato down the pecking order, so to speak. Instead, Barbato struggled so much he had to be sent to Triple-A a few days ago, and Shreve has managed to allow seven runs (five homers!) in his last 6.2 innings. Shreve and Barbato went from weapons to liabilities real quick.

Yates has probably been the team’s best non-big three reliever this year — Kirby (+0.3) is actually sandwiched between Miller (+0.8) and Betances (+0.1) in WAR, for what it’s worth — which was not part of the plan. Not at all. Shreve was supposed to be that guy coming into the season, which is why Girardi used him as his seventh inning man early on. The hope was Barbato would grow into that role too. It hasn’t happened.

To make matters worse, all that bullpen depth the Yankees had has disappeared. Branden Pinder and Nick Rumbelow went down with Tommy John surgery. Bryan Mitchell broke his toe in Spring Training. Jacob Lindgren forgot how to throw strikes. The Yankees went from having plenty of bullpen options to signing Coke out of an independent league and sticking him in their bullpen in the span of six weeks. Baseball, man.

The end of the game is set with Chapman, Miller, and Betances. It’s the other bullpen innings where it gets dicey. Let’s look at some numbers really quick:

IP ERA FIP K% BB%
Chapman, Miller, Betances 28.2 1.88 1.73 47.7% 4.5%
All Other Relievers 64.2 4.59 4.39 21.9% 7.5%

Yeah, that’s not so good. To be fair, there are a bunch of mop-up innings in there for the other relievers, which skews the numbers a bit. But still, that’s a pretty drastic difference. The three guys at the end of the game are great! Every else? Eh, not so much, especially of late.

The Yankees have to find someone — and by find someone I mean hope someone (or, preferably, multiple someones) emerges from the current in-house options — to pitch all those other bullpen innings. Goody was given an opportunity to show he can be counted on in tight situations last night, and the result was a hit batsman and a two-run single in two batters faced. Shreve is back to giving up dingers, meaning the job is Yates’ by default for the time being.

The Triple-A options are not all that appealing right now. The Yankees didn’t sign Coke because had nothing better to do. They needed the depth after all the injuries. Luis Cessa and Tyler Olson are on the 40-man roster, ditto James Pazos. Others like Anthony Swarzak, Mark Montgomery, Conor Mullee, Tyler Webb, and Matt Wotherspoon could get a chance at some point. The Yankees hope it doesn’t come to that.

When the Yankees have a lead, or even when the game is tied, they’re in pretty excellent shape in the late innings. No team in baseball can match the Chapman-Miller-Betances trio. Games like last night are where the bullpen can be a problem, when Girardi has to dip into the B-relievers to keep a game close, especially when Yates isn’t available. The bullpen is great overall, but it is definitely top heavy. They need to create a little more balance.

Aroldis Chapman and the changing dynamic of the bullpen

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

Later today, the Yankees’ prized offseason addition will finally join the active roster. Aroldis Chapman‘s 30-game suspension is up — he only served 29 games thanks to a rainout — and he’ll be in the bullpen tonight ready to close. Joe Girardi has already confirmed Chapman will take over the ninth inning. He’s the closer.

The Yankees are not exactly one reliever away from turning things around, but Chapman will no doubt help. He is arguably the best reliever in the world and adding an elite player like that instantly makes the team better. Chapman’s return — is it really a return if he’s never been here before? no, right? — has a trickle down effect on the rest of the bullpen and the pitching staff in general. Let’s run it all down.

The Roster Move

Might as well start here. Chapman did not count against the 40-man roster during his suspension, so the Yankees had an open spot for much of the first five weeks of the season. That open spot went to Phil Coke the other day, however, so the Yankees have to clear a 40-man spot for Chapman today.

That’s not a problem though. The Yankees have four 60-day DL candidates: Greg Bird (shoulder), Mason Williams (shoulder), Bryan Mitchell (toe), and Branden Pinder (Tommy John surgery). My guess is Pinder gets transferred to the 60-day DL because the Yankees know for certain he’ll miss the rest of the season, but it could be any of the four. Doesn’t matter who it is, really. Point is, the Yankees don’t have to designate anyone for assignment to make room for Chapman.

As for getting Aroldis on the active roster, Nick Goody seems like the obvious candidate to be shipped down to Triple-A. The Yankees could dump Coke, but with Ivan Nova in the rotation for the time being, they need a new long man, and Coke is stretched out after working as a starter in an independent league. Keeping Coke around and sending Goody down makes the most sense given the current roster situation.

New Roles

Girardi loves to assign his relievers set innings, so it stands to reason Andrew Miller will now take over as the eighth inning guy with Dellin Betances sliding back into the seventh inning. That pushes Chasen Shreve back into a lower leverage middle innings role with Johnny Barbato joining Kirby Yates, where he belongs at this point give his recent bout of longballitis.

The Yankees and Girardi have talked about using only two of the three big relievers per game to ensure one of them is always fresh the next day, which is sounds great, but it may be tough to pull off. Could you imagine losing a game because, say, Barbato is on the mound in the late innings while Miller is available in the bullpen and not being used? Wait, yes I can. Dammit to hell.

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Anyway, the “only use two per day” plan only works if the starter gives enough length and the lead is big enough. You’re going to have a tough time convincing me Girardi should not use the three big relievers if the starter is out of the game after six innings and the Yankees are tied or nursing a small lead. The Yankees are not in any position to prioritize tomorrow over today at the moment.

I would like to see Betances and Miller match up in the seventh and eighth rather than be assigned a specific innings, though I’m not sure it really matters. Those two are great against batters on both sides of the plate. Still, if the other team is sending their best lefty hitters to the plate in the seventh, why not use Miller there instead of Betances simply because it’s his inning? I’m actually hopefully this will happen. We’ll see.

Either way, Chapman’s return means everyone in the bullpen gets knocked down a peg and that’s a good thing. Miller is an overqualified eighth inning guy. Betances is an extremely overqualified seventh inning guy. Shreve is now the No. 4 instead of the No. 3. The added depth is going to help a lot. The Yankees will automatically have an advantage on the mound in any close game in the late innings.

About The Ninth Inning

No, Andrew Miller does not deserve to lose the closer’s job. He’s been outstanding in that role since the start of last season. It is an undeserved demotion. No doubt about it. I also don’t it matters at all. Miller has been talking about doing whatever the team needs since the day he signed and it seems sincere. Here’s what Miller told Chad Jennings yesterday:

“What do you want me to do?” he said. “You want me to throw a fit? The goal here is to win. I think if you go around and ask, there’s 25 lockers in here and I think everyone is going to say that. We haven’t gotten off to the start that we want to. I think we’ve played well in the last couple of days, and the goal is to keep that going. Wins are what’s fun at the end of the day. It doesn’t matter if you’re saving games for a last-place team.”

It’s refreshing to hear that. Drew Storen complained and sulked after the Nationals acquired Jonathan Papelbon last year. Kenley Jansen said he wanted to close after the Dodgers almost acquired Chapman over the winter. Closer is a prestigious job and every reliever wants it. Miller would have every right to be upset, but he truly seems okay with it.

I would be surprised if Miller’s performance suffered at all following the move into the setup role. Same with Betances, though he’s going from eighth inning setup man to seventh inning setup man. If one of those two — or Chapman, for that matter — blows a game at some point in the next few days, the new roles are going to be talked about a lot. It’s unavoidable. I’m not worried about this at all though. Chapman’s been closing for a long time and Miller and Betances seem perfectly happy with their roles.

Spread The Workload Around

The Yankees don’t seem to win blowout games anymore. Saturday was an outlier. Seven of the team’s eleven wins have been by three or fewer runs, meaning Miller and Betances have worked a lot. Through 29 games Miller has 12 appearances and 11.2 innings. Betances has 15 appearances (!) and 14 innings. The other day Miller was asked to get a four-out save and Betances recently pitched in three consecutive days. He was the first Yankees reliever to do that since David Robertson in September 2014, when he had one foot out the door as a free agent and the team wasn’t all that invested in his long-term future.

Girardi has had to lean on Miller and Betances and awful lot early on, and adding Chapman means the late-inning workload can be spread out a bit going forward. Like I said a bit earlier, this is easier said than done because it’s going to be tough to stay away from those guys in the late innings, but having that third high-end bullpener will lighten the load a bit. Whenever the starter gets through seven Girardi won’t have to use all three. The Yankees now have three guys soaking up high-leverage innings, not only two. That’s huge.

Trade Bait

Even if the Yankees completely turn things around and claw their way back into contention, trading Chapman is the best thing for the team long-term. The Yankees were able to get him at a very discounted rate because of the uncertainty surrounding his potential suspension, and now the suspension has been served. The mystery is gone. Chapman is back today and is a game-ready pitcher.

Chapman is a Grade-A piece of trade bait as a rental elite closer. Literally every team in the league could use someone like him — including the Yankees! — though obviously contenders figure to show the most interest. Any team with championship aspirations will check in, so the Yankees have an opportunity to create a bidding war to maximize their return. The Mets, Nationals, Dodgers, Cubs, Giants, Tigers, Mariners, Rangers … they’ll all get involved.

As I said last week, I think the Yankees should look to trade Chapman sooner rather than later. The sooner they trade him, the longer his new team gets him, meaning the Yankees can ask for more in return. There’s also the injury factor. Pitchers get hurt, and the longer the Yankees wait, the more risk they’ll assume. It takes two to tango, another team has to be willing to make a trade right now, but I think the Yankees should be shopping Chapman right now. Put him out here and start the process.

* * *

For now, the Yankees are adding another dominant reliever to their already dominant end-game bullpen. They’re a better team today than they were in the first 29 games of the season because Chapman is back. He can help them climb back into the playoff race in the short-term and accumulate young assets via trade in the long-term. Even though his time in pinstripes may be limited, it’s not a stretch to call Chapman one of the most important Yankees in 2016.

Girardi confirms Aroldis Chapman will take over as closer when he returns

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

According to Bryan Hoch, manager Joe Girardi confirmed Aroldis Chapman will indeed take over as the Yankees’ closer as soon as he returns from his suspension next Monday. They’re not going to ease him back into things and Andrew Miller‘s otherworldly performance doesn’t mean he’ll remain in the ninth inning.

Chapman is scheduled to make tune-up appearances in Extended Spring Training today and Friday — today’s outing will likely be two innings, according to pitching coach Larry Rothschild — before joining the team Monday. He’s been throwing in Tampa since the end of Spring Training and has been gradually increasing the intensity of his prep work.

I thought maybe the Yankees would ease Chapman back into things at first, perhaps with a low to medium leverage outing or two before taking over the ninth. In a perfect world, I bet the Yankees would like to see Aroldis come into Monday’s game to face the 7-8-9 hitters with a three-run lead. Nice and easy for his first game, you know? Just to get those first game jitters out of the way.

Miller has been out of this world so far this season. He’s allowed three singles and one double in ten scoreless innings, with 16 strikeouts and zero walks. Only eight of the 33 batters he’s faced have hit the ball out of the infield. Insanity. Miller has said all along he’ll pitch in any role and he seems sincere about it, so I don’t expect giving up the closer’s job to Chapman to be a problem.

Now, if Chapman comes in and blows one of his first save opportunities, then there will be some second guessing. That’s inevitable. Hopefully that doesn’t happen. Girardi likes to assign relievers set innings, so in all likelihood Miller will take over the eighth inning and Dellin Betances the seventh. I suppose he could mix and match Miller and Betances as necessary, though they’re so good against all hitters it won’t make much of a difference.

“I just think it makes our bullpen longer,” said Girardi to Hoch when asked about the impact of adding Chapman to the bullpen. “You use guys maybe a little bit differently, which I think helps … Let’s just see what we get into. Worry about that when he gets here.”

Getting Chapman back is not going to cure all that ails the Yankees, not even close, but it’s not going to hurt either. Adding this kind of talent to the roster only helps. We’ll see what kind of shape the bullpen is in next week, though the smart money is one Nick Goody going to Triple-A to clear a roster spot for Chapman. Hopefully the Yankees start giving him some games to save.