As the trade deadline approaches, contenders will look to fill specific needs to aid them down the stretch run. Blessed with otherworldly starting pitching and a Hall of Fame lineup, the Yankees only have one real need: their bullpen. Aside from the eternal Mariano Rivera closing out games, the rest of the pen is in shambles. Never afraid to pull the trigger on a deadline deal, GM Brian Cashman has been given every reason to once again swing a trade to land help.
The most prominent problem that the Yankees face is getting to Mariano, and that has fallen on the shoulders of Joba Chamberlain. In a statistical breakdown of relievers by Steve Lombardi of Baseball Reference Blog, the Nebraska alum has a .282 BAA (Batting Average Against) and the fourth worst ERA+, an adjusted earned run average based on ballpark and league averages, among relief pitchers with at least 30 appearances. More so, the idea of Joba coming into the game is an option that scares even manager Joe Girardi, who has begun to sought other alternatives. Chamberlain’s inability to work out of jams has yielded quite a few big innings for the opposition under his watch.
Although he hasn’t been giving up the long ball, the Yankee reliever gives up runs because of his propensity to give up timely hits and poor control with men on base. Whether Chamberlain needs to be sent down to AAA to fine tune his mechanics or just get demoted to a less pressure-filled situation to refine his skills, the Yankees cannot keep Joba in his eighth inning role.
With three of their most used relief pitchers holding ERAs over 5 (Chamberlain, David Robertson, and Chan Ho Park), the Yankees don’t have many internal options to help shore up the bullpen. Although Damaso Marte was a key player in their playoff run last year, his play had been uneven this year before he landed on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. The only solid option within the organization is right-hander Alfredo Aceves. On the DL since May 15th, the reliever would be a nice addition to a struggling pen as he can add stability to the later innings.
In the trade market, relief pitching looks to be the most plentiful position available in both depth and talent. Just in the NL Central, bullpen options spring up with Octavio Dotel now replaceable in Pittsburg with the rise of All-Star Evan Meek and the Brewers have depth in the pen in veterans Carlos Villanueva and Todd Coffey. Because they aren’t looking for a closer, the Yankees market expands dramatically as they can, but do not have to, poach a closer from a team.
Matt Capps is the dominant name on the rumor wire among closers, as his All-Star appearance combined with experience finishing games puts him on the top of many suitors’ lists. With future closer Drew Storen having a successful season in the Washington pen, Capps now becomes an attractive trading chip for the rebuilding Nationals.
Seattle has a pair of relievers that have received interest and reportedly been put on the block in David Aardsma and Brandon League. Although Aardsma hasn’t come close to being the dominant closer he was last year, he still provides as a serviceable option for a team with a struggling pen. Former Blue Jay prospect Brandon League never lived up to the hype he gained as a blue-chipper in the minors, but he too can be a nice fill-in to a Yankee bullpen that lacks arms.
The trade deadline is usually a crapshoot when it comes to relievers as it is difficult to predict how a closer handles a set-up role. With many failed ventures, such as Eric Gagne to the Red Sox or J.J Putz to the Mets, the Yankees may turn to the middle relief market for support.
With many attractive names on the market, Brian Cashman is faced with the question of making a deal or riding out the year with what he has; hopefully he makes the right call and gets some relief.