Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Yankees’ non-tender choices provide hints to bullpen structure

Now that the non-tender deadline has passed, the New York Yankees bullpen situation looks a little clearer, at least at the front-end and for the time being.

After non-tendering lefty David Huff and signing right-handed Esmil Rogers (thought to be a non-tender candidate himself) to a $1.45 million contract ($750K guaranteed) the Yankees more or less showed their hand in that either David Robertson or Andrew Miller will be their choice for the last back-end reliever addition to the roster before spring.

The Yankees have Shawn Kelley, Adam Warren, Justin Wilson, Rogers and Dellin Betances on the 40-man roster today. That leaves one spot for either Robertson or Miller, and another for a long reliever, who would likely be the loser of a fifth starter competition in the spring.

The Yankees' decision to keep Rogers is interesting to me, but someone in the franchise obviously likes the potential his arm carries and they figure to see how he and others pan out in spring training before deciding who makes it north.

Based on what we know right now I’m a little surprised that the Yankees would carry only one lefty (Wilson) if they do not sign Miller. I guess they could easily re-sign Robertson and once they feel southpaw Jacob Lindgren is ready to make the transition to the big leagues, they could DFA Rogers or whoever is underperforming from the right side.

It’s fairly simple to suggest that Wilson, Betances and either Robertson or Miller will be in the Bronx for the long haul. The other three slots could be interesting to watch as the season unfolds. I have a hard time seeing Rogers making the team unless he is lights out or one of Warren/Kelley is hurt or awful in the spring. I’d venture to guess Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi is going to want another lefty in that bullpen and if Warren and Kelley are doing well, Rogers is expendable.

This might suggest the Yankees truly are serious about signing Miller as the big money option instead of Robertson. As I wrote the other day, a Miller/Betances duo could be used by Girardi several ways and might make the eighth and ninth innings easier for him to navigate based on the batters coming to the plate. While, Betances (or Robertson for that matter) handle lefties just fine, I suspect Girardi still sees a quality lefty having a better chance against a good left-handed hitter.

Sticking with Robertson could still happen, but if it does, Rogers might not see the light of day in the Bronx (unless it’s as an opponent) come April.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer and sports media strategist. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.