Almost all of the splash in the offseason has had to do with the bullpen, specifically the closer role. With the acquisition of Aroldis Chapman, the back end of the Yankees bullpen is the best in baseball bar none. Despite the Chapman suspension, presumed interim closer Andrew Miller and 8th inning guy Dellin Betances still present a formidable presence late in games. It's a sharp contrast to the starting rotation, where a lot of attention - the wrong kind - has been paid over the winter. Whatever happens with the starters, there is still that bridge to the closer that looks a little curious to me right now.
Ivan Nova looks to be the Yankees most reliable pitcher not originally slated to be in the rotation. He threw three scoreless innings against the Mets to follow a decent performance against Philly the week before. He could be a good setup man, if not for Joe Girardi's statement that CC Sabathia will have to earn his spot in the rotation. I love CC, but he is the only starter not performing well this spring. You don't make a statement like Girardi did without having a plan as to who would replace him. To me, Nova would be the obvious choice. Not to mention that he's first in line in case someone gets hurt, and that seems to be an eventuality.
The bullpen starts to degrade once you look past Nova. Chasen Shreve is the probably the last left-handed reliever left after the recent cuts. He is having a spectacular spring so far. Nevertheless, he gave the Yankees reason to question his ability last year, so he is a question mark. James Pazos was seen as a good replacement for Justin Wilson after the trade, be he has not looked good and was cut. I had high hopes for Jacob Lindgren as a lefty bullpen power guy. After needing surgery last year, he had a dreadful first start to his spring. He looked decent in his next two starts before being cut, and he may be an option later this season if he can get better control of his pitches.
The right-handed side of the bullpen looks a little better, with Nick Rumbelow, Nick Goody, and Branden Pinder presenting as good options. I should include Bryan Mitchell on this list, but I see him as more of a 7th starter. See my comments above about Ivan Nova. With this rotation, it's not so crazy to plan for seven. Nevertheless, they all had a good spring. If they can keep up this level of performance throughout 2016, they should provide some stability to the pitching staff.
To me, this bullpen reminds of a team in a developing year. You have some very talented but very young players who are going to get their feet wet this season. Getting their feet wet is a euphemism for "they will be terrible at times but they will learn and they will become great." So I expect some turbulence in this space, but if you're looking long-term, this should be a good pen.
--Ike Dimitriadis, BYB Senior Staff Writer
My blog is: Shots from Murderer's Row
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