With free-agency getting underway, the Yankees must look to refill and re-up the bullpen before next season rolls around.
As winter rolls around, the New York Yankees will set out to retool a roster that got knocked out in the ALDS by the Tampa Bay Rays. The Bombers have a handful of things to knock off their to-do list before Spring Training, but one of the biggest things the Yanks need to address is the Bullpen.
The End of Tommy Kahnle’s Yankees Career?
Tommy Kahnle has been a stalwart in the Yankees bullpen since 2017, but Tommy John Surgery cut Kahnle’s season short after just one appearance. Prior to 2020, Kahnle had a standout season in 2019, establishing himself as a dominant relief arm. Kahnle had a 3.67 ERA with a 3.33 FIP and a 2.69 xFIP. He struck out 88 batters in 61.1 innings — a 12.91 K/9.
Unfortunately, Kahnle’s Yankees career may be in jeopardy, as his Tommy John Surgery likely eliminated him from contention in 2021. Even if Kahnle was available to pitch late next season, that possibility has dwindled quite a bit since the righty elected free-agency after declining an outright assignment from the Bombers.
Now, there’s always a possibility the Yankees bring him back on a restructured salary, but even if that is the case, it’s impossible to rely on Kahnle given his timetable to return to action.
The Downfall of Adam Ottavino
The Yankees signed free-agent reliever Adam Ottavino to a three-year pact in January of 2019. His first season was actually pretty solid, despite questionable analytical numbers. Ottavino had a 1.90 ERA with a 3.44 FIP and a 4.32 xFIP. He struck out 88 batters in 61.1 innings, but walked an alarming 40 batters. This season, those peripheral numbers came back to bite Ottavino, as he had a 5.89 ERA in 18.1 innings.
Obviously, the hope is Ottavino bounces back in 2021, but with that being far from a guarantee, the Yankees would be foolish to not look at bullpen help.
Luckily for the Yankees, there are a few very solid arms out on the free-agent market the Yankees could target. Liam Hendriks, former Oakland A’s closer, pitched to a 1.78 ERA in 25.1 innings with 37 strikeouts. This comes off a season where Hendriks had a 1.80 ERA in 85.0 innings with 124 strikeouts. Another option would be former Cleveland Indians southpaw Brad Hand. Hand has quickly established himself, going from failed starter with the Miami Marlins to top-tier reliever with the San Diego Padres and Indians.
After a season where Hand had a 2.05 ERA in 22.0 innings, he was shockingly put on waivers, which he cleared. Hand, who is now a free agent, will look for a new home in 2021. Hand is a potential under the radar candidate who would be a great option in the Yankees’ bullpen.
Whether it’s Hendriks, Hand, or someone else, the Yankees need to find bullpen recruits for next season. If not, they’ll be in a position to lose a lot of close games, which could hurt them in the regular season and in the playoffs.