Why Yankees should bulk up bullpen with big-name reliever

SCOTTSDALE — It’s a relief pitcher’s world. We’re all just living in it.

It is well-accepted throughout the industry that this year’s crop of starting pitchers on the free-agent market is among the weakest in years, but the closer’s market is top-heavy with three big names that will draw plenty of interest from multiple teams around the majors.

“Some of those names are pretty big, sexy names, so whenever they decide to make a decision to sign with somebody, it will always be a big story whether you’re Kenley Jansen, Aroldis Chapman, Mark Melancon, to name those big three,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “When they sign somewhere, it will be a big story for the cities that secure them.”

The Yankees better hope New York is one of those cities. More specifically, the Bronx.

As Cashman noted the other day, the Yankees are still a year or two away from making any major nine-figure investments in free agents, but investing $70-80 million for four or five years of Chapman or Jansen would make the youth movement of the next two years more than your typical rebuilding process.

We’ve seen what a strong bullpen can do for a team. The Indians made a run to the World Series with an injury-ravaged rotation thanks to an incredibly strong relief unit. Last year’s Yankees battled back from a dreadful start thanks largely to their three-headed monster of Chapman, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances, so they’ve seen first-hand what shortening the game to a six-inning affair can do.

Miller isn’t coming back any time soon, but Adam Warren and Tyler Clippard have proven to be capable of locking down the seventh, while Betances has already been an All-Star as a shutdown eighth-inning guy.

Aroldis Chapman.

Aroldis Chapman.

(David Banks/AP)

Adding Chapman or Jansen would take a lot of pressure off of a starting rotation that doesn’t have the horses to get the game to the seventh or eighth inning on a regular basis.

Some might ask, if the Yankees are going through this youth movement and aren’t expected to be serious contenders for two more years, why bother paying a closer $15 million or more during the next two seasons? The answer is simple: that closer could help the Yankees sneak into the postseason, and as the Indians showed us last month, anything can happen once you get there.

Cashman has stated his belief that Betances can handle the closer’s job if he’s unable to secure one of the others, though adding another proven closer will make the Yankees a better team.

“I have no worries about him closing if that’s the way we go, but it’s in my best interest like we did last year in December when we had Miller to add to that and fortify, increase the opportunities to win an inning every inning,” Cashman said. “The more I can do that, the better we’ll be in position to win games.”

The question will be — as it is every year when it comes to the top free agents — what type of commitment both in terms of dollars and years it will take to land any of the three.

Big-market teams including the Cubs, Nationals, Dodgers and Giants are also in need of a closer, which makes the free-agent trio the most intriguing members of the Class of 2016-17.

Kenley Jansen.

Kenley Jansen.

(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

No closer has ever signed for an average annual value higher than the $15 million the Yankees paid Mariano Rivera between 2008-12, though the four-year, $50 million contract Jonathan Papelbon signed with the Phillies remains the largest total deal ever given a closer.

Based on this year’s market, Chapman and Jansen figure to shatter that mark, while Melancon could exceed it, as well. Neither Chapman nor Melancon has draft pick compensation attached to him, though Jansen received a qualifying offer from the Dodgers, meaning any team that signs him will have to forfeit its first-round pick.

“There’s an element of the law of economics from a supply and demand perspective, no doubt,” Angels GM Billy Eppler said. “You see the impact that they have not just for the role that they’re doing, but for the roles of everybody else. Everybody takes a step earlier in the game, it can ease the burden on the starting pitcher as well.”

Chapman is reportedly seeking $100 million, though it’s difficult to imagine him doubling the previous record for a closer’s contract.

“I don’t know how high it’s going to go, but it’s a year where there are some exceptional guys that have done a lot of good things,” Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said. “Two of them in particular were really able to shine in the postseason and show their versatility. I wouldn’t speculate on where it’s going to go, but it’s never a bad thing to shine in the postseason when you’re gong to be a free agent and a bunch of those guys did.”

Beyond the big three, Cashman believes there could be significant bullpen movement on the trade market. Closers such as David Robertson and Wade Davis could be on the move, offering alternatives to teams unwilling to pony up the big bucks for one of the top free agents.

“In some cases, guys will get paid, then there are other cases, there are guys on the trade market that are available,” Cashman said. “There are a lot of different ways people can go to skin that cat. I think it’s always going to be an area of concentration for clubs to collect as many quality arms in the bullpen as they possibly get.”

Tags:
mlb
new york yankees
mlb transactions
aroldis chapman
mark melancon
kenley jansen

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Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News

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