Carpenter & Bailey: Veteran righties who didn’t provide depth [2015 Season Review]

Last offseason the Yankees remade almost their entire bullpen. In fact, the only reliever who was in both the 2014 and 2015 Opening Day bullpens was Dellin Betances. Everyone else had been replaced. (Adam Warren was another bullpen holdover, but he moved into the rotation.) Bullpen turnover is not uncommon and the Yankees went through a lot of it last winter.

One of the new bullpen additions was right-hander David Carpenter, who came over from the Braves with Chasen Shreve in the Manny Banuelos trade. Carpenter had been one of Craig Kimbrel’s primary setup men in recent years and was expected to fill a similar role in 2015. Fellow righty Andrew Bailey also re-upped with the Yankees last winter as he continued to rehab from shoulder surgery. Neither player contributed much this season.

Carpenter. (Presswire)
Carpenter. (Presswire)

When Good Relievers Go Bad

From 2013-14, Carpenter pitched to a 2.63 ERA (2.88 FIP) in 126.2 innings for Atlanta. He missed bats (27.4 K%), he limited walks (7.0 BB%), and he threw hard (95.3 mph). Carpenter was pretty much everything the Yankees look for in a reliever. That he came with three years of team control as an arbitration-eligible player was icing on the cake.

Carpenter never did come close to repeating that success with the Yankees. After starting the year with four mostly low-leverage appearances — because the Yankees lost a lot the first week of the season — Carpenter was asked to protect a one-run lead in the sixth inning against the Orioles on April 15th. He gave up a game-tying home run on his second pitch and was ultimately charged with three runs in one-third of an inning.

Just like that, Carpenter fell out of the Circle of Trust™. Joe Girardi had Andrew Miller and Betances in the late innings, and both Shreve and Justin Wilson were pitching well, so Carpenter was relegated to very low-leverage work. Here are the game situations when he entered his next ten appearances following the meltdown in Baltimore:

eighth inning, Yankees up nine
eighth inning up nine
seventh inning up two
seventh inning tied
eighth inning up three
nine inning up six
sixth inning down four
eighth inning up five
sixth inning up five
sixth inning down three

Not many important innings in there. Even in that third appearance, when he entered with the Yankees up two in the seventh, Carpenter was only asked to get one out. Carpenter allowed eight runs (seven earned) on ten hits and three walks in 6.2 innings spanning seven appearances in mid-May, at which point he had really fallen out of favor.

The Yankees didn’t want to cut Carpenter loose so early in the season — after all, he was pretty good from 2013-14 and they controlled him through 2017 — so they stuck with him. Girardi gave Carpenter plenty of work too. He appeared in nine of 17 games at one point in late-May/early-June. The Yankees kept running him out there hoping something would click.

The final straw came on June 2nd, when Carpenter was brought into the sixth inning of a tie game against the Mariners. Seattle had runners at the corners with two outs, and all Carpenter had to do was retire Austin Jackson, who ultimately hit .259/.299/.358 (83 wRC+) against righties in 2015. Carpenter got ahead in the count 1-2 but couldn’t put Jackson away, eventually allowing a go-ahead double.

The Yankees designated Carpenter for assignment the next day, opting to keep Jacob Lindgren on the roster when Masahiro Tanaka came off the DL. Carpenter finished his stint in pinstripes with a 4.82 ERA (5.33 FIP) in 18.2 innings. He also allowed four of nine inherited runners to score. His strikeout rate (13.4%) was way down even though his velocity was mostly fine. Rather than factor into the end-game equation, Carpenter was a big liability for the 2015 Yankees.

A few days later the Yankees flipped Carpenter to the Nationals for infield prospect Tony Renda. Carpenter allowed one run in six innings across eight appearances for Washington before landing on the DL with a sore shoulder. He didn’t pitch again the rest of the season and the Nats outrighted him off the 40-man roster a few weeks ago. Carpenter elected free agency and recently signed a minor league deal with the Braves. Relievers, man.

The Return of Bailey

Over the last few years the Yankees have rolled the dice on injured relievers, rehabbing them to health while hoping they’d contribute down the line. They did this with Matt Daley and David Aardsma, though neither paid dividends. They tried it again with former All-Star Andrew Bailey.

Bailey. (Presswire)
Bailey. (Presswire)

The Yankees first signed Bailey to a minor league contract last offseason that included a club option for 2015 worth $2M or so. He never did pitch last year as he rehabbed from shoulder capsule surgery — Bailey suffered a few setbacks — so the Yankees declined the option and signed Bailey to a new minor league contract. This one included a $2.5M club option for 2016.

Bailey’s rehab progressed nicely, enough that he was able to pitch in Spring Training. He allowed four runs in 5.2 innings, but while the results stunk, the important thing is Bailey was healthy and actually pitching. It was progress. The Yankees had Bailey stay behind in Tampa to continue working his way back after Grapefruit League play ended. He made six appearances with High-A Tampa in April before suffering another setback.

It wasn’t until late-June that Bailey was healthy enough to pitch again. The Yankees took it very slow with him and let him climb the minor league ladder gradually. After some tune-up appearances in Tampa, Bailey spent a month with Double-A Trenton then another month with Triple-A Scranton. He finished the season with a 1.80 ERA (2.87 FIP) in 35 minor league innings.

The Yankees put Bailey through the grinder immediately before calling him up. They had him work back-to-back days, multiple innings, enter in the middle of an inning … the works. They really tested him with the RailRiders before bringing him up when rosters expanded. Bailey passed every test and joined the team in September. He made his first MLB appearance since 2013 on September 2nd, allowing a run on a hit and two walks in one-third of an inning against the Red Sox.

Bailey threw 12 strikes with his 22 pitches that afternoon and looked pretty amped up. I can’t say I blame him. Girardi continued to pick his spots with Bailey — remember, the Yankees were trying desperately to stay in the AL East race and later clinch a wildcard spot — which is why he entered eight of his ten appearances with the Yankees trailing. The other two where his first game (Yankees up by nine) and his ninth game (11th inning of a tie game).

With the bullpen taxed and the Yankees barely hanging on in the AL East race, Girardi turned to Bailey with the Yankees trailing by one in the seventh inning against the Blue Jays on September 23rd. It was a game they basically had to win to stay in the division race. Instead of keeping it close, Bailey served up a three-run home run to Russell Martin that all but crushed New York’s AL East hopes.

Bailey’s month in pinstripes featured a 5.19 ERA (6.48 FIP) in ten appearances and 8.2 innings. He also allowed three unearned runs (so eight runs total in 8.2 innings) and two of six inherited runners to score. Bailey had nearly as many walks (five) as strikeouts (six) despite a healthy 12.0% swing-and-miss rate. The Yankees really could have used another reliable bullpener down the stretch and Bailey had the pedigree, but it didn’t happen.

As expected, the Yankees declined Bailey’s $2.5M option after the season. They could have held on to him as an arbitration-eligible player, but instead outrighted him off the 40-man roster because space is tight. Bailey elected free agency rather than accept the assignment, and he is currently a free agent. Like Daley and Aardsma, the Yankees didn’t invest much in Bailey, but they didn’t get much of a return either.

Bailey elects free agency; Yankees add Campos to 40-man roster, activate four off 60-day DL

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Busy transaction day for the Yankees. After releasing Chris Martin so he could sign with the Nippon Ham Fighters, the Yankees announced a series of roster moves this afternoon. Here’s the recap:

Campos, 23, returned from Tommy John surgery this year and had a 6.29 ERA (3.58 FIP) in 54.1 innings, mostly with High-A Tampa. Campos came over in the Michael Pineda/Jesus Montero trade and was once one of the top prospects in the organization, but injuries derailed him the last few seasons.

Brian Cashman said over the summer the team would consider adding Campos to the 40-man roster if his stuff returned following elbow reconstruction, and apparently it did. Campos would have become a minor league free agent this weekend had the Yankees not stuck him on the 40-man. He was on the 40-man in 2014 before getting hurt. The Yankees non-tendered Campos last offseason and re-signed him to a minor league deal.

Lindgren had surgery in June to remove bone spurs from his elbow. German and Whitley both blew out their elbows and needed Tommy John surgery. German had his in Spring Training while Whitley had his in May. Williams hurt his shoulder running into the outfield wall in mid-June and eventually needed surgery. There is no DL in the offseason. These four had to be activated no later than Friday.

The Yankees declined their $2M club option for Bailey earlier this week, but he remained under team control as an arbitration-eligible player. Apparently the team slipped him through waivers and dropped him from the 40-man roster. Rather than accept the minor league assignment, Bailey will try his hand at free agency. Makes sense. He seemed like a potential 40-man roster casualty this winter.

So, after all of that, the Yankees have just one open 40-man roster spot at the moment. The deadline to add players to the 40-man to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft is November 20th. Two weeks from Friday. They’ll have to clear some more spots. Austin Romine, Caleb Cotham, and Jose Pirela stand out as candidates to be removed from the roster.

Yankees decline Bailey’s club option; Ryan picks up player option

Ryan. (Mitchell Layton/Getty)
Ryan. (Mitchell Layton/Getty)

As expected, the Yankees declined Andrew Bailey‘s club option for 2016 earlier today, the team announced. Also, Brendan Ryan exercised his 2016 player option worth $1M. The Yankees actually hold a $2M club option for Ryan, but there’s no reason to pick that up now. Not unless the Yankees feel like being generous and giving Ryan an extra million bucks.

Bailey, 31, originally signed a minor league contract with the Yankees prior to last season that included a club option for 2015. The team declined the club option and re-signed him to a new minor league contract last winter because he was still rehabbing from shoulder surgery. The club option for 2016 was worth $2M and I didn’t see anything from Bailey during his limited time in September that made me think he’s worth $2M.

Even though the Yankees declined their club option, Bailey remains with the organization as an arbitration-eligible player. MLBTR’s model projects a mere $900,000 salary for Bailey next season if the Yankees decide to keep him around. That’s probably worth it, though Bailey can refuse an assignment to the minors at his service time level, so stashing him in Triple-A probably isn’t an option.

Ryan, 33, was likely looking at a minor league contract if he went out into free agency this offseason, so it’s no surprise he picked up his $1M option. He hit .229/.275/.333 (64 wRC+) in 47 games and 107 plate appearances this summer while playing strong defense. Joe Girardi regularly used him against left-handed pitchers and Ryan responded by hitting .283/.321/.453 (109 wRC+) against southpaws.

The Yankees could eat the $1M and cut ties with Ryan this offseason, but they’ll need to replace him with another shortstop capable backup infielder. They don’t have anyone like that in the minors. The list of free agent backup middle infield types includes Mike Aviles, Clint Barmes, and Cliff Pennington. Spoiler: They’ll annoy you just as much as Ryan. He’s an acceptable backup infielder as long as his playing time is limited.

Pineda and Eovaldi projected for largest arbitration raises in 2016

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
Big Mike is in line for a big raise. (Jim Rogash/Getty)

Now that the season is over, we can start to look forward and figure out which direction the Yankees will go this offseason. They could go big with free agents, they could do nothing and continue to trust their prospects, or they could have another trade-heavy offseason. I’m sure there’s a middle ground somewhere.

This offseason arbitration will be a major item for the Yankees. Some of their most important players are up for arbitration and due big raises, which will impact the overall payroll. Matt Swartz at MLBTR posted his annual arbitration projections earlier this week, and his model gets more and more accurate each year. There are still some big misses, that’s unavoidable, but overall the margin of error is within a few percent.

Anyway, let’s look at Swartz’s projections for New York’s nine arbitration eligible players. Yes, nine. The numbers in parentheses are each player’s service time, written (years.days). In the service time world, 172 days equals a year.

Sergio Santos (5.110) – $900K
Andrew Bailey (5.034) – $900K arbitration projection; has $2MM club option.
Ivan Nova (5.024) – $4.4MM
Michael Pineda (4.099) – $4.6MM
Dustin Ackley (4.087) – $3.1MM
Nathan Eovaldi (4.013) – $5.7MM
Adam Warren (3.036) – $1.5MM
Justin Wilson (3.035) – $1.3MM
Didi Gregorius (2.159) – $2.1MM

According to Tim Dierkes, the Super Two cutoff this year is 2.130, meaning Dellin Betances fell 52 days short of qualifying for arbitration. Super Twos are arbitration eligible four times instead of the usual three. Gregorius is a Super Two and arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter. He’s got a nice raise coming after making something near the league minimum in 2015.

Santos is an obvious non-tender candidate. Even if the Yankees wanted to keep him around, they’re better off non-tendering him and re-signing him to a minor league contract since he’s going to miss most of next season while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. There is no 60-day DL in the offseason and there’s no reason to have a injured journeyman reliever like Santos clogging up a precious 40-man roster spot.

Bailey is also a non-tender candidate and his contract situation is slightly more complicated thanks to that $2M club option. I know he’s a former All-Star and all that, but I didn’t see anything in September that made me think Bailey is worth $2M next season. The Yankees can decline the option and instead take him to arbitration, where he’s projected to earn a mere $900,000. I could see cutting him loose entirely or going to arbitration. I’d be surprised if the Yankees picked up the option.

Pineda and Eovaldi are both entering their second arbitration year. Pineda earned $2.1M this season and has the biggest projected raise at $2.5M. Eovaldi is right behind him with a $2.4M projected raise. That is fairly standard for good but not great starters going through arbitration for the second time. Given the fact both Pineda and Eovaldi spent time on the DL with arm injuries in 2015, I’m guessing the Yankees will not explore a long-term extension with either this winter.

Smackley. (Presswire)
Smackley. (Presswire)

Like Pineda and Eovaldi, Ackley is entering his second arbitration year and he’s projected for a mere $500,000 raise. His arbitration case is slightly different because he signed a Major League contract with the Mariners after being drafted, which means Ackley’s salary was higher in his first few years as a big leaguer. He made $1.5M in 2013, his final pre-arbitration year. Most players are making something close to the league minimum that year. His arbitration salary last season was based on that $1.5M. Still, that projected $3.1M salary for Ackley in 2016 is fine. The Yankees didn’t trade Ramon Flores and Jose Ramirez to get Ackley only to non-tender him after the season. Besides, he hit in September!

Warren and Wilson are getting typical raises for middle relievers going through arbitration for the first time. Warren’s salary is slightly higher because he spent some time as a starter, and being a starter pays. Had he remained in the rotation all season, his projected arbitration salary likely would have climbed north of $2M. Maybe the Yankees will throw Warren a bone and pay him more than projected after jerking him around this year. I wouldn’t get my hopes up if I were Warren though. This is a business, after all.

And finally, Nova’s the most interesting arbitration case because he was both hurt (rehab from Tommy John surgery) and bad (5.07 ERA and 4.87 FIP) in 2015. That projected $4.4M salary works out to a $1.1M raise over his 2015 salary, which is quite small for a starting pitcher entering his third arbitration year. Joel Sherman says the Yankees will not non-tender Nova, and as bad as he was this year, that makes sense. Paying $4.4M for a depth arm is nothing, and at least with Nova you can say he might improve as he gets further away from Tommy John surgery. At the very least, the Yankees could tender him a contract then trade him. Don’t cut him loose for nothing.

Arbitration salaries are based on old school stats. Wins, saves, home runs … stuff like that. The players are compared to others at their service time level and they argue they deserve X while the team argues they deserve less than X. The Yankees haven’t been to an actual arbitration hearing in years, not since Chien-Ming Wang in 2008, and there’s no reason to think they’ll go to one this offseason. Chances are everyone who needs to be signed this winter will be signed.

Building the Wildcard Game Roster: Pitching Staff

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

At some point soon, possibly later today, the Yankees will officially clinch their first postseason berth in three seasons. It’s only a wildcard spot, sure, but a wildcard spot is better than nothing. Both the Royals and Giants went to the World Series after being wildcard teams last year, remember.

The wildcard game is considered its own distinct playoff round, which means it gets its own 25-man roster. It’s not a regular season game, so no expanded rosters with September call-ups, but the Yankees would also be able to change their roster prior to the ALDS, should they advance. They can build a roster specifically for the wildcard game.

There have been 12 wildcard teams since the current system was put in place in 2012, and those 12 teams averaged 9.67 pitchers on the roster. Three teams carried eleven pitchers, three carried ten, five carried nine, and one carried eight. There’s no need to carry all the extra starting pitchers, so teams have taken advantage and expanded their benches.

Whoever starts Game 162 for the Yankees on Sunday won’t be on the wildcard roster. There’s no reason to carry him since they won’t be available for the wildcard game on Tuesday. It also wouldn’t make sense to carry the Game 161 starter since he’d be on two days’ rest in the wildcard game. Right now Luis Severino and Michael Pineda are lined up to start Games 161 and 162, respectively, though that can change.

Joe Girardi and the Yankees love to match up with their relievers, so my guess is they end up carrying ten or eleven pitchers in the wildcard game. I’d be surprised if it was any fewer but I suppose it is possible. Which ten or eleven pitchers should the Yankees carry in the wildcard game? Let’s try to figure it out. Later today we’ll tackle the position player side of things.

The Locks

Might as well start with the easy ones to get them out of the way. Masahiro Tanaka will start the wildcard game — he will return from his hamstring injury tonight and start with “no restrictions” (no pitch count, basically), putting him in line for the wildcard game with an extra day of rest — and we know Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, and Justin Wilson will be in the bullpen. That’s four of the ten or eleven spots right there. You can be sure Girardi would prefer not to use anyone other than those four in the wildcard game too.

If Tanaka’s hamstring acts up tonight, my guess is the Yankees would rearrange their weekend rotation and go with either Severino or Pineda in the wildcard game. (Likely Severino given Pineda’s dud last night.) CC Sabathia is starting tomorrow night and would be able to start the wildcard game on regular rest, though I’d be surprised if he got the call. Yes, Sabathia has pitched better of late, and he is the team’s highest paid starter, but the Yankees wouldn’t even run him out there against the Blue Jays in a regular season game. In a winner-take-all wildcard game? It would surprise me to see him out there if better options available (i.e. Severino).

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Safe Bet

Given their need in middle relief and the fact they have four other starters for the postseason rotation, it makes perfect sense for Adam Warren to be on the wildcard game roster and ready for middle innings work. He is currently stretched out to 80+ pitches and lined up to start Friday, which means he’ll be on three days’ rest for the wildcard game. The Yankees could always cut Friday’s start short — say three innings or 50 pitches, something like that — to make sure Warren is fresh for Tuesday. Unless someone gets hurt and Warren has to remain in the postseason rotation, I expect him to be on the wildcard game roster. He’s too good not be in the bullpen for that game. So five of the ten or eleven pitching spots are claimed.

Whither Shreve?

Considering how well he pitched for most of the season, it’s hard to believe Chasen Shreve‘s postseason roster spot is now in question. He’s been that bad in recent weeks. Girardi has already reduced his high-leverage work, so Shreve’s falling out of favor. Once the Yankees clinch, Girardi and the Yankees absolutely should use Shreve as much as possible these last few regular season games to try to get him sorted out, and those last few outings could easily determine his wildcard roster fate. Right now, given his overall body of work, my guess is he’s on the roster.

The Extra Starters

Tanaka is going to start the wildcard game but it would also make sense to carry an extra starter or two in the bullpen, at the very least to serve as a long relief option in case things get crazy in extra innings. As I said, Sabathia would be on full rest for the wildcard game and could serve as the extra starter. Ivan Nova is another candidate — he started Monday and probably won’t start again during the regular season — but I think it’s more likely Nova starts Saturday or Sunday, leaving Severino or Pineda available for the wildcard game. I have a hard time thinking Nova will be on the wildcard game roster, but I guess it’s possible. Do the Yankees need one or two extra starters? I guess that depends how the rest of the roster shakes out. For now I’m thinking Sabathia and another starter will be in the wildcard game bullpen.

The Rest of the Rest

Assuming Warren, Shreve, and two spare starters are on the wild card roster, the Yankees still have two or three pitching spots to fill to get their staff up to ten or eleven. They have no shortage of candidates, that’s for sure. Andrew Bailey, James Pazos, Branden Pinder, Nick Rumbelow, Chris Capuano, Bryan Mitchell, Chris Martin, Caleb Cotham, and Nick Goody are all on the active roster at the moment. Those last two or three arms will come from that group.

Process of elimination: Goody is out because he’s barely pitched in September, making only two appearances. He seems to be at the very bottom of the Triple-A reliever depth chart. Martin is basically one rung higher — he’s made five appearances this month and three lasted one out. He’s out too. Mitchell looked pretty sharp in short relief earlier this season but has not been all that effective since taking the line drive to the face. Can’t afford to risk his wildness in a winner-take-all game. He’s out.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

That leaves Bailey, Pazos, Pinder, Rumbelow, Capuano, and Cotham. Bailey is a Proven Veteran™ who Girardi has tried to squeeze into some tight spots of late. Sometimes it’s worked (last Friday against the White Sox), sometimes it hasn’t (last Wednesday in Toronto). Pazos and Capuano are lefties, and I thought it was interesting Capuano was used in a true left-on-left matchup situation Monday night (he struck out both batters). He warmed up again for a similar spot last night, but did not enter the game. Pazos has been okay — lefties are 2-for-7 with a walk against him this month — but not great. The next few days could be telling. If we see Capuano get more lefty specialist work, he’ll probably be the guy.

Out of all the guys on the bullpen shuttle, Pinder has spent the most time on the big league roster this year while both Rumbelow and Cotham seemed to get chances to grab hold of a middle relief spot at various points. Neither really did. Both have shown flashes of being useful. Flashes shouldn’t be enough to get them on the wildcard roster though. Right now, I believe both Bailey and Capuano will make the wildcard roster with the caveat that Capuano could get smacked around in the coming days and lose his spot. In that case I think they’d take Pazos as the emergency lefty specialist.

The mechanics of getting Bailey on the roster are simple. He was in the organization before August 31st, so he’s postseason eligible, but he didn’t get called up until September 1st. That means he has to be an injury replacement. The Yankees have three pitching injury spots to play with: Chase Whitley, Sergio Santos, and Diego Moreno. (The injury replacements have to be pitcher for pitcher, position player for position player. No mixing and matching.) Whitley and Santos had Tommy John surgery while Moreno had bone spurs taken out of his elbow. Bailey replaces one of them. Pazos would get one of the other two spots if he makes the roster.

Nathan Eovaldi (elbow) is in the middle of a throwing program but has already been ruled out for the wildcard game. The hope is he can join the bullpen should the Yankees advance to the ALDS. Probably should have mentioned that earlier. Anyway, so after all of that, here’s my ten-man pitching staff guesstimate for the wildcard game:

Righties
Bailey
Betances
Nova (or Severino or Pineda)
Tanaka (starter)
Warren

Lefties
Capuano
Miller
Wilson
Sabathia
Shreve

That might be it right there. The Yankees don’t have to carry an 11th pitcher. Ten is plenty — especially since both Sabathia and Nova/Severino/Pineda would be available for super long relief — and is right in line with the previous 12 wild card teams. If they do carry an 11th reliever, I think it would be a righty just to even things out. So … Cotham? Girardi has used him in some big-ish situations of late. Either way, the 11th pitcher’s role on the wildcard roster would be what, 25th inning guy?

The ten-man pitching staff includes Tanaka (the starter) and two extra starters for long relief purposes, giving Girardi a normal seven-man bullpen. For one individual game, that should be plenty. The pitching game plan is pretty simple too, right? Get at least five innings from Tanaka, then turn it over to Wilson, Betances, and Miller. Warren is the next “trusted” reliever. If Girardi has to start dipping into guys like Capuano or Bailey or Shreve, something’s gone wrong.

Ready or not, Yankees will need their young relievers to get big outs the rest of the way

Pazos. (Presswire)
Pazos. (Presswire)

As you know, the Yankees have used their last bullpen spot or two as a revolving door this season, shuttling young relievers in and out as fresh arms were needed. Fifteen different relievers were called up from Triple-A Scranton as part of the shuttle this season, eight of whom were called up and sent down multiple times. Ten of those relievers made their Major League debuts.

On the bright side, that’s a lot of young players getting an opportunity this season. Getting to the big leagues is one heck of an accomplishment. On the other hand, none of those relievers stuck around long enough to make any sort of impression. Branden Pinder leads the group with 26.1 big league innings this year, though that is spread across five separate call-ups. He threw eleven innings in August and no more than 6.1 innings in any other month.

It’s too late in the season now for anyone to get an extended look, but it’s not too late for one or some of these young relievers to make an impact. Despite being 13 pitchers deep, the bullpen is short right now, at least in terms of relievers Joe Girardi actually trusts. Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, and Justin Wilson are still around, but Adam Warren is in the rotation and Chasen Shreve has hit a wall. The Circle of Trust™ is three men deep right now.

Like it or not, Girardi is going to have use some of these young relievers to get important outs in these final 18 games of the season. He tried to do that last night. Things didn’t go too well:

Yankees Blue Jays

That’s a lot of sketchy relief pitchering. On Monday we saw Girardi use Caleb Cotham in the eighth inning of a one-run game with an insurance run standing on third. James Pazos and Cotham tag-teamed the ninth inning against the top of the Blue Jays lineup Sunday. Nick Rumbelow and Bryan Mitchell have both gotten the call in an important-ish situations at various points.

The Yankees do have some veterans in the bullpen, namely Andrew Bailey and Chris Capuano (and I guess Chris Martin), though neither is really suited for higher leverage work. They have experience, sure, but Bailey’s still coming back from major shoulder surgery and Capuano’s nothing more than a long man. The young kids and their power arms are better options right now, in theory. Experience is great, but present talent wins out.

With the starters failing to go longer than six innings on the regular, Girardi and the Yankees will be forced the bridge the gap with these young guys. They can’t use Wilson and Betances for multiple innings each day, not even this late in the season. Someone, be it Pazos or Pinder or Rumbelow or Bailey, is going to have to step up and get some big outs at some point these last 18 games. The Yankees don’t have any other options.

Warren’s return to the rotation thins out the bullpen even further

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Later tonight, Adam Warren will return to the rotation to help the Yankees following Nathan Eovaldi‘s regular season-ending bout of elbow inflammation. He’s only going to throw something like 60-65 pitches because he’s not fully stretched out, though that’s not really a problem because the Yankees are carrying 13 relievers these days. It’ll take two or three starts to get Warren all the way stretched out.

Warren was pitching quite well when the Yankees stuck him in the bullpen earlier this summer and he followed that by pitching well in relief too. He had a 3.59 ERA (4.18 FIP) in 14 starts and a 2.51 ERA (2.77 FIP) in 25 relief appearances. Warren’s been in the league full-time for three seasons now. He’s proven himself as a rock solid Major League caliber pitcher who can fill almost any role. That’s a mighty valuable piece.

That doesn’t make losing Eovaldi any less significant considering how well he pitched the last three months. Warren is a capable fill-in starter, though the Yankees will really feel Eovaldi’s loss in the bullpen. That 13-man bullpen includes only three relievers Joe Girardi actually seems to trust. Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances are two of the three, of course, and Justin Wilson is the third. Chasen Shreve‘s recent struggles mean he probably won’t see a high-leverage inning anytime soon.

Warren was, essentially, the fourth member of the Circle of the Trust™. His usage has been a little weird at times this season, but when push comes to shove, I’m guessing Girardi wants Warren on the mound ahead of anyone other than Miller, Betances, and Wilson. Nine of Warren’s last 15 appearances have come in games separated by no more than two runs. Girardi started using him in more important situations over the last month or so.

Losing Warren now creates a pretty substantial hole in the bullpen. Miller, Betances, and Wilson can’t pitch every night, leaving Shreve as the fourth option almost by default. That’s not good given the way he’s pitching right now. Girardi used Caleb Cotham to get relatively big outs the last two days — he pitched down one in the eighth with an insurance run at third last night, and he faced Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista in the ninth inning Sunday — so maybe he is being auditioned. Same with James Pazos, who also pitched in the ninth inning Sunday.

The Yankees do have former All-Star closer Andrew Bailey in the bullpen, and while he could be someone who sees more important innings, he hasn’t pitched well since being called up. He’s faced 14 batters with the Yankees and allowed three walks, two singles, and one home run. Opponents have swung and missed five times at his 63 pitches. Yeah, he’s a former All-Star, but Bailey’s last All-Star Game was also Ty Wigginton’s only All-Star Game. It’s been a while.

Bailey is coming back from major shoulder surgery and physically isn’t the guy he was earlier in his career. His shoulder have been compromised to some extent. It’s unrealistic to expect him to return from a torn shoulder capsule and start handling late-inning work again. Girardi could try it, and hey, maybe it’ll work over the final 19 games of the season. Weird stuff happens in small samples. It would be a surprise though. More than likely, youngsters like Branden Pinder, Nick Rumbelow, Bryan Mitchell, Cotham, and Pazos will have to step up.

Make no mistake, in these huge games down the stretch, Girardi is going to lean on Miller and Betances more than usual. Same with Wilson to a lesser extent. He’s gone to great lengths this season to rest those guys so they can be as fresh as possible for the stretch run. The late innings are fine. Getting the ball from the starter to Betances and Miller is where things can get hectic, and that’s where Warren will be missed the most.