Friday, January 2, 2015

Yankees add to bullpen, deplete rotation depth

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman isn’t exactly making moves at the pace of San Diego Padres GM A.J. Preller, but he’s certainly been active this offseason, and he’s likely not done.

The Yankees traded once highly-touted left-handed starter Manny Banuelos to the Atlanta Braves for relievers David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve. Carpenter, a 29-year-old righty has 188 major league appearances to his credit, wielding a 3.62 ERA (3.42 FIP). Shreve, a southpaw, is just 24 and made his major league debut in 2014. In 12.1 innings in Atlanta, Shreve posted a 0.71 ERA (1.43 FIP). He owns a 3.22 ERA in 276.2 minor league innings.

By the looks of what the Yankees have in the pen, I don’t suspect they’ll make any other moves here. Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, Justin Wilson and Carpenter all seem to be locks to make the team. Adam Warren, Esmil Rogers, Shreve, Jacob Lindgren, Chase Whitley, Danny Burawa, Branden Pinder, Jose Ramirez and Andrew Bailey all have the potential to round out the bullpen when camp breaks.

The Yankees had suggested earlier in the offseason that Warren would be stretched out during spring training and that seems more likely with Banuelos gone. Early on in the offseason I, along with others, had expected Banuelos and Bryan Mitchell to battle for the fifth starter role with Ivan Nova beginning the season on the disabled list as he finishes his recuperation from last season’s Tommy John surgery.

But the Yanks signed Chris Capuano to a one-year deal and then dealt for Nathan Eovaldi. They'll be given every opportunity to secure the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation respectively, but with the injury uncertainty surrounding CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda, there cannot be enough depth at the ready.

Personally, I think Warren is more valuable as a reliever. He seemed very much at ease in the beginning of 2014, but then ran out of gas after being used heavily early on. He found his form once again at the end of the season once his innings were able to be managed effectively. He can dial it up as a reliever, something he was not doing when starting.

My only hope is that whatever they decide for Warren at the end of spring training, he is able to stick in a defined role for the season. If he starts, he starts. If he’s a swingman, he’s a swingman. And if he’s a one-inning middle reliever, then he’s a one-inning middle reliever.

With Banuelos gone, the Yankees might also try to stretch out Rogers and Whitley, giving them the option of looking at minimally four starters in case of injury or underperformance in the rotation come April.

I’d expect the Yanks will now sign one or two veterans to minor league deals (unless a bigger move develops) to further the competition and provide some more depth. In the minors the Yankees don’t seem to have any other starters ready to take an MLB rotation spot.

Banuelos was obviously not expected to do much from the Yankees’ point of view at the major league level this season, or maybe beyond. It will be interesting to see how Banuelos, who just turns 24 in March, develops in Atlanta. For now, it seems the Yanks are banking on the five healthy guys they have set, knowing Nova could be ready in late May and feel comfortable with the versatility and depth they’ve got currently in Mitchell, Warren, Rogers and Whitley.

It’s always a bit worrisome when a once-highly regarded prospect is allowed to leave and at still a young age. But the Yankees have carved out a plan and it’s one that emphasizes a strong bullpen in which the depth of the relief crew is not only a lengthy list of names, but includes players who can be used in a variety of ways.

Spring training is going to feature a good number of bullpen battles and I suspect more names will be added to the list before everyone arrives in Tampa.

What are your thoughts? Did the Yankees give up too soon on Banuelos? Or did they get enough value for him based on his current status? Let me know in the comments below.

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.