It is currently unknown who will for sure be in the Yankees bullpen beyond the recently signed Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances and Tyler Clippard, but there is one pitcher who pitched well in his two months with the team last season who should be a relief pitcher again.
Adam Warren should be in the bullpen instead of the rotation this season because the Yankees inability to get the back end of the bullpen many times last year proved how much they need a strong middle relief. Right now on the official depth chart on the Yankees website they have him as a rotation candidate, which means that he will go into spring training as a candidate for one of the two open spots in the rotation.
Warren was selected by the Yankees in the 4th round of the 2009 draft as a starting pitcher out of the University of North Carolina. He pitched in the minors from 2009-2011, spent the 2012 season with Triple-A Scranton except for 2.1 innings with the Yankees and then spent the 2013 through 2015 seasons with the Yankees.
The 6-1, 29-year-old, who was born in Birmingham had his most successful season in 2014 when he pitched exclusively out of the bullpen. He had an impressive 2.97 ERA in 69 games (78.2 innings) in 2014 with a 1.106 WHIP, 76 strikeouts, 24 walks, 23 holds and three saves. He showed he could excel in multiple roles in the bullpen, and improved his stats from the previous year when he was not a starting pitcher for the first time.
In 2015, the righty threw a career-high 131.1 innings since 17 of his 43 appearances were as a starting pitcher. Warren ended up starting the season in the rotation and then was moved back to his bullpen at the end of June. He ended the 2015 season with a solid 3.29 ERA in his 43 games with a very good 1.16 WHIP, a 2.8 WAR, 104 strikeouts, 39 walks and 10 homers allowed. These are solid overall stats but they were improved by the games he pitched in relief.
He made 14 starts to begin the season (and three from the middle to end of September) and had a 3.59 ERA those appearances, which is a quality ERA and about equals that of a No. 3 or 4 starter, but the Yankees have other younger candidates for the No. 4 and 5 spots in the rotation who are capable of that ERA. He has also proven that he can excel in the bullpen as he did last season when he returned to the Yankees.
Before the 2016 season, Warren and Brendan Ryan were traded to the Cubs for Starlin Castro. This was a great trade overall for the Yankees because Castro played well as he had a .270 average, a .734 OPS, 21 homers, 70 RBI, 29 doubles and 156 hits in his first full season as a second baseman, and the Yankees got Warren back at the trade deadline when they traded Chapman to the Cubs.
General Manager Brian Cashman wanted Warren back because even though he had struggled with the Cubs he knew he had pitched well under Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild in the past and he thought he would improve the bullpen after trading away Chapman and Andrew Miller.
When interviewed after being traded back to the Yankees, Warren blamed not really knowing his role with the Cubs for his subpar performance. It could also be that reuniting with Rothschild helped him pitch like he had in previous seasons. In 29 games with the Cubs, Warren made one start, threw 35 innings, had a 5.91 ERA, a 1.43 WHIP and had 27 strikeouts and 19 walks, which is a high strikeout to walk ratio.
However, after coming to the Yankees just before the trade deadline, his performance was much better than it was during his 29 games with the Cubs. He pitched in 29 games with the Yankees in the last two months (30.1 innings) and had an improved 3.26 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 0.4 WAR, six holds, four wins, 25 strikeouts, 10 walks and 11 earned runs compared to 23 with Chicago.
He makes sense for middle relief because of his drastic improvement in the last two months of this season helping to make the bullpen a strength when it was an unknown after losing Miller and Chapman. In some ways having a very effective middle relief can be just as important as a dominant closer because if the lead is blown in the 7th or 8th the closer will not pitch in the game.
Tyler Clippard is another pitcher who was not on the Yankees in the first half of the season but excelled with the Yankees in August and September. With the Diamondbacks in 40 games last season he had a 4.30 ERA but with the Yankees in 29 games he produced more like he did when he was an All-Star in 2014 as he had a 2.49 ERA with 26 strikeouts in his second tour with the Yankees.
It is likely but somewhat of an unknown if Clippard and Warren can both produce like they did towards the end of the season, which is why Warren should be in the bullpen. Unless the Yankees acquire an established middle relief pitcher, which seems unlikely, everyone in the bullpen besides Chapman, Betances and Clippard would be in their 1st or 2nd year.
It would be ideal to have Warren in the bullpen and only moved to the rotation in an emergency because that is where he is most valuable. If Warren is in the bullpen once again then the team’s bullpen can be top three in the league and will be a definite strength. The UNC product combining with Clippard to pitch the 7th would mean that young pitchers like Johnny Barbato, Chasen Shreve and Nick Goody’s role wouldn’t be as important.
According to Brooks Baseball, Warren relied on his fourseam fastball (93 mph) and slider (88 mph), while also mixing in a circle change (85 mph), knuckle curve (80 mph) and sinker (93 mph) this season. Many relief pitchers use a fastball and slider but his ability to throw three more pitchers makes him different.
The first impact move that the Yankees made during the offseason was trading Brian McCann to the Houston Astros. They obviously need to add two or three starters since Hal Steinbrenner has said that he expects to have two rotation spots open to begin spring training. This means that it is unknown who will be in the rotation after Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia.
A move that the Yankees should make that involves their bullpen is acquiring an elite closer so that Dellin Betances can go back to being an elite set up man. Betances broke down and was much less effective during the end of last season and it’s possible that that might not happen if he is pitching primarily in the eighth inning instead.
He was outstanding in the first five plus months of the season as he had an ERA of 2.05 and a WHIP of 0.94 before his appearance on September 5, which was his 64th game of the season, but his results were much worse after the 5th of September. After allowing eight earned runs combined from June through the first two games of September, he allowed 10 earned runs in his final nine games of the season.
Betances struggled with his control as he walked eight batters in September, which came after allowing eight walks combined in April, May and June. He was an All-Star for the third season in a row this season after being an elite set up man during the first half of the season while Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman were still on the team. The 28-year-old who grew up in New York City had a 3.08 ERA after finishing with a 1.50 ERA while still having a very good WHIP of 1.123 and striking out 126 batters, which was the most in the American League among relief pitchers. Betances primarily throws a nasty 12-6 curveball (85 mph) and a fourseam fastball (98 mph)
As of now, the primary set up men behind Betances are Tyler Clippard, Tommy Layne, Chasen Shreve and Richard Bleier. The veteran Adam Warren could be in the rotation or the bullpen, and other young pitchers who could open the season in the bullpen are Jacob Lindgren, Jonathan Holder, Nick Goody, Ben Heller and Johnny Barbato. There is not much proven major league success beyond Betances, Clippard and Warren if he ends up in the bullpen, which is why the Yankees should sign a veteran closer and another relief pitcher to lengthen the game and add to the depth of the bullpen.
The Yankees are rumored to be interested in signing Chapman, who they traded to the Cubs on July 25 for top shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney, Rashad Crawford and Warren. Chapman, who regularly throws 100 mph or faster, had a outstanding 2.01 ERA in 31 games (31.1 innings) with 44 strikeouts, eight walks and an outstanding 0.894 WHIP with the Yankees this season before they traded him to the Cubs. During his 28 games with the World Series champion Cubs, the Cuban Missile had a 1.01 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 26.2 innings.
He is a proven commodity in the league as he has performed at an elite level in his last five seasons. Chapman was an All-Star with the Reds in every season besides his rookie season and he pitched well enough last season to be an All-Star but didn’t pitch in the first month of the season because of his suspension for domestic abuse. Chapman has recorded between 33 and 38 saves in every season since 2012, his ERA has been at 2.54 or below in all those seasons, he recorded an astounding 122 strikeouts for a reliever in 2012 and his low in that span was 90 strikeouts this past season and his WHIP has been between 0.809 and 1.146 in every season.
Another proven commodity at the closer spot who is currently available is Kenley Jansen. The native of Curacao started in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization as a 16-year-old catcher and made his debut as a relief pitcher for the Dodgers when he was 22 in 2010. Jansen is coming off of his best season of his career as he was an All-Star for the first time after finishing with a 1.83 ERA in 71 games (68.2 innings) with 47 saves, 104 strikeouts, 11 walks, 35 hits allowed and a remarkable 0.670 WHIP. Jansen also has the ability to be effective in more than one inning, which is a plus if some other relievers aren’t available or are struggling.
Jansen has been the Dodgers closer since the 2012 season and has had an ERA of 2.76 or lower in every season since then. In 2014, he had a 2.76 ERA, which is a good bit higher than his ERA from this season, but he did have 101 strikeouts and 44 saves. The pitches that he throws are a cutter (94 mph), slider (83 mph) and sinker (95 mph), according to Brooks Baseball.
Jansen and Chapman both made their major league debuts in 2010. Jansen turned 29 in September and Chapman will be 29 in February. Chapman’s ERA in his seven seasons in 2.08 and his WHIP is 0.992 and Jansen’s ERA in his seven seasons is 2.20 and his WHIP is 0.893. Their stats are similar and the Yankees couldn’t really go wrong with either one.
An advantage to signing Jansen instead of Chapman would be that he likely would not command as high of a contract as Chapman (he is rumored to want a $100 million contract for five years). Another positive for Jansen is that he doesn’t regularly throw 100 + mph like Chapman does, which means that he will be able to keep his fastball at the mid 90s velocity that his is at longer than Chapman’s velocity will stay over 100.
Today’s scheduled game at 7:05 p.m. against the Chicago Cubs has been rescheduled for Wednesday at 1:05 p.m due to rain that is expected throughout the day. There will be a separate-admission, day-night doubleheader tomorrow and tomorrow’s originally scheduled game will begin at 7:05 p.m. The Yankees will honor the legacies of Jackie Robinson and Nelson Mandela at 4:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The Cubs, who last won the World Series in 1908, have previously played at Yankee Stadium during the World Series in 1932 and 1938, which the Yankees won, as well as a three-game sweep by the Yankees during interleague play in 2005. The Cubs have never beaten the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.
Entering this series, the Yankees will have a record of 7-6 after winning three of their four games against the Red Sox, and the Cubs will come into the series in last place in the NL Central with a 4-8 record. They have been in rebuilding mode the last few years while waiting for top prospects Javier Baez and Kris Bryant to be ready.
As a result of Francisco Cervelli being placed on the 60-day disabled list after he suffered a Grade 2 hamstring strain while running to first during Sunday’s win over Boston, the Yankees have brought up Scott Sizemore from AAA Scranton. Sizemore, who can play second and third and has previously played for the Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics, was hitting .344 in 10 games at AAA. It makes sense bringing up another infielder because there is only so much Yangervis Solarte and Dean Anna can play. The Yankees have also recalled John Ryan Murphy to have another backup catcher with Cervelli out.
Masahiro Tanaka will pitch the 1:05 p.m game tomorrow and he will be pitching against a weaker offense than the one he saw during his first game at Yankee Stadium last Wednesday. He was able to limit the Baltimore Orioles to three runs in seven innings. Also, so far this season, Tanaka has the best strikeout-walk ratio in baseball. He has 18 strikeouts to only one walk. That is a great sign for future success.
Michael Pineda will pitch the night game and he will look to prove that he can pitch just as well after the pine tar/dirt situation from his last start. He pitched very well against the Blue Jays, in his first start for the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, as he allowed only one run in six innings.
Jason Hammel, who has a 2.65 ERA in three starts at the new Yankee Stadium, will pitch the first game tomorrow for the Cubs. Travis Wood comes into tomorrow night’s contest with a 2.92 ERA and has not pitched at Yankee Stadium in his career.
Pineda and Tanaka could prove to be the best starters on the pitching staff by the end of the season based on their youth and what they have shown so far. It is important that the Yankees win these two games against an inferior team. Today’s off day also gives Derek Jeter another day to rest and recover from his quad tightness.