Whither the (expensive) bullpen options

Whether they want to pursue this philosophy or not, the Yankees won’t be overspending on bullpen help this year. Two pitchers the Yanks had targeted to some degree — Troy Percival and David Riske — have opted to go elsewhere, and that’s probably a good thing.

According to Buster Olney, Riske, the Brewers and a multi-year contract worth about $4 million per are a good fit. For Riske, his timing couldn’t be better. The Brewers just lost their closer, Riske had a great season and Scott Linebrink and the White Sox just torpedoed the relief market.

So Riske, 31, with decent career numbers, will get a large contract and probably break down at some point. At least, that’s what always happens to the Yanks when they sign relief pitcher to large deals. Strike that one off our list.

Percival, the Yanks’ other target, is heading for a two-year, $8 million payday with the Rays. While the Yanks were willing to pay Percival more to set up for Mariano Rivera, the Rays are offering Percival and his 324 career saves a chance to close. Maybe now the Rays will actually manage to beat the Red Sox once in a while.

I’m not that upset about missing out on either of these players. Riske is probably the safer bet, but he’s getting overpaid. Meanwhile, Percival is just a few years removed from basically retiring from baseball due to inoperable arm problems. After spending 2006 on the bench, he threw 40 innings for the Cardinals in 2007.

But here’s his dirty little secret: Percival, 38 and not getting any younger, pitched on back-to-back days twice all season, and one of those times was for 0.1 innings in a 15-1 blowout. The Yanks already have one headcase reliever who can’t throw on back-to-back days. Why do we need another who’s one slider away from blowing out his arm?

So with these deals, thus ends the Yanks’ half-hearted desires to sign two guys who, like the nationally televised Knicks are getting paid too much. I like this approach almost as much as I like the internal options the Yanks have available. Maybe they’ve finally learned that expensive relief options are just as ineffective as inexpensive options.

Yanks will not overpay for relief pitchers

Are we really entering a new era of Yankee spending?

While the recent contracts for Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera show that the Yanks are willing to spend money for established players, recent word from the Bronx is that the Yankees are not going to overspend on bullpen pitchers. In his latest notes column, FoxSports’ Ken Rosenthal speaks on the Yanks’ efforts to shore up the bullpen:

The Yankees will not go beyond a certain financial threshold with free-agent relievers when they can fill certain roles from within, sources say. The team, for example, could pass on left-hander Ron Mahay, if his price — as expected — rises above $12 million over three years, the amount the Phillies awarded J.C. Romero.

Rosenthal notes that the Yankees are more than willing to look internally for bullpen options. Without delving into the slew of arms coming back from Tommy John surgeries, he mentions Sean Henn, Kei Igawa and Chase Wright from the left and Ross Ohlendorf, Jose Veras, Britton, Bruney and Edwar from the right.

Now, few of those names inspire much confidence in Yankee-land. Kei Igawa? Chase Wright? Brian Bruney? Yikes.

But the reality of the situation is that this shift in philosophy is a long time coming. How often have the Yankees gotten burned on high-priced bullpen flops? Steve Karsay, Paul Quantrill, Kyle Farnsworth, Felix Heredia. The list is endless.

For the all the pain that Bruney puts us through, his numbers are no worse than the guys getting four-year, $19-million contracts this winter. While the savings represent pennies compared to the overall Yankee payroll, I’d much rather see the Yanks use cost-efficient options instead.

Joba the reliever or Joba the starter

Last week, Justin Sablich, writing on The Times Bats blog, wondered aloud if the Yanks would be better off with Joba in the pen instead of in the rotation. His argument focuses around the idea that no one else could get the job done in the pen last year. While we can debate the rest of the Yankee bullpen and its potential makeup for hours on end, I think the answer to this question is simple. Joba throwing 150-160 as a starter is much more valuable to the Yankees than the 60-70 innings he would pitch in the bullpen. Feel free to debate this point as it relates to a shaky bullpen, but I’m sticking with my position here. Joba the Starter lives!

Wasting money on middle relief

Hot on the heels of of the White Sox’s signing of Scott Linebrink for four years and $19 million comes the obvious story: The new market for relievers — set by the Yankees and Mariano Rivera — will impact the Yanks’ bullpen plans. The real (terrible) news however is that the Yanks are interested in Ron Mahay, David Riske and Trever Miller. Considering that these mediocre relievers, a speciality of the Yanks lately, are going to want multi-million-dollar, multi-year contracts, the Yanks are simply better off with their internal options. Maybe Riske is worth the risk, but Miller shouldn’t even be under consideration. I hope Brian Cashman realizes that.

Filling the pen just got more expensive

As we all know too well, one of the glaring holes the Yanks have to fill this season is the bullpen. The revolving door circus of the pen has had a tough time reaching Rivera of late. Sadly, it just got more expensive for the Yanks to sign Major League relievers with any semblance of past success because the White Sox are going to give mediocre reliever Scott Linebrink a four-year, $19-million contract. At this point, the Yanks are better off with their internal options — Ohlendorf, Sanchez, Ramirez, etc. — than with any of these Farnsworth-lite contracts sub-par relievers are now going to get this winter.

How to manage the bullpen without really trying

I too would like to keep Brian Bruney an arm’s length away from pitching ever again for the Yanks. (Photo courtesy of Bombers Beat)

On the one hand, it’s hard to get too worked up over last night’s loss. On a night when the Yanks’ pitching staff hands out 11 walks and Kei Igawa throws the ugliest five shut-out innings you’ll ever see, it’s tough to expect a loss.

Furthermore, the Yanks, in need of just one win to clinch a postseason berth, will record that victory before the season is out. And seeing Alex Rodriguez crush a grand slam is a comforting thought for those of us a bit worried by his recent dearth of power.

But on the other hand, haven’t we seen this before? A Yanks starter struggles through five innings with the lead, and Joe Torre cannot once again put together a good combination of relievers to hold a five-run lead for four innings.

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Edwar Ramirez promoted, but it’s the wrong move

From the Post:

The Yankees have promoted 26-year-old right-handed reliever Edwar Ramirez from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and he will report today to provide support for a bullpen that has been wretched.

To make room for Ramirez, the Yankees are expected to send infielder Chris Basak down to Scranton.

Between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton, Edwar’s thrown 43.1 innings, allowing only 19 hits and 3 earned runs while striking out 80. Yes, 80 strikeouts in 43.1 IP. He’s been beyond stellar this year, and the call-up is well deserved, but here’s the problem: it’s thw wrong move.

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