On Monday the Yankees received the unfortunate news that pitcher Nick Rumbelow needs Tommy John surgery and will miss the rest of the 2016 season. While the most important thing to consider is Rumbelow's health, and hopefully he can fully recover from this, one can't help but wonder what his injury means for the team's bullpen depth. Even though he didn't make the team's Opening Day roster, Rumbelow figured to be a part of the bullpen plan for 2016.
Outside of the key players in bullpen in Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, Aroldis Chapman (when he returns), and Ivan Nova, all the other arms in the bullpen were subject to being part of the so-called "Scranton Shuttle." Chasen Shreve, if he continues to pitch the way he did for most of 2015 and has thus-far in 2016, is probably also safe from getting on board that shuttle. That leaves Johnny Barbato, Luis Cessa, and Kirby Yates as "ticket-holders" currently on the major league team.
Before his injury, Nick Rumbelow was one of the players who was waiting to get called up. In spring training, Rumbelow, Branden Pinder, Nick Goody, James Pazos, and Jacob Lindgren all looked to be in the mix for an Opening Day bullpen roster spot, along with Barbato, Cessa, and Yates who ended up winning the roles with the team. However, as injuries or ineffectiveness kicked in, it was almost guaranteed that each of these players were going to see some time with the big league club.
Most of the players competing for a spot did play their part in the 2015 bullpen. Interestingly enough, the only players in the bullpen competition to not are the ones who made the Opening Day roster. Per Fangraphs, outside of Pinder's 25 games that he appeared in, Rumbelow led that group with 17 appearances out of the bullpen. Last year the Yankees used 24 different relief pitchers, 25 if you count Brendan Ryan's pitching appearance, so there's no reason to think that they wouldn't use their fair share of relievers this year as well.
For right now, at least, the Yankees bullpen is doing its job.
Yankees relievers have struck out 27-of-71 batters faced (38.0%) in 17.1IP Their 14.02 K/9.0IP ratio is tops among all MLB bullpens.— Mark Feinsand (@FeinsandNYDN) April 12, 2016
While that is nice, what really stands out is the innings pitched by Yankee relievers so far this season. Out of a possible 45 innings, five games, the bullpen has made up 38% of the innings. That's quite a lot, especially for the early part of the season, and if the Yankee starters don't start pitching deeper into games, there will be some fatigue on the arms in the bullpen. Fortunately, they do have depth.
While the Rumbelow injury, and the Mitchell injury before, hurts the Yankees' depth for right-handed relievers, they do still have Branden Pinder (who pitched pretty well in spring training) and Nick Goody down in Triple-A as players that have experience in the majors. Anthony Swarzak stuck around until the last round of cuts so he could be someone that's waiting for a phone call, even though he wasn't too impressive in spring training and he'd have to be added to the 40-man roster. A dark-horse candidate for a bullpen job would be Diego Moreno. After getting demoted earlier in 2015, he made his way back to the team on July 28th last year for the 21-5 victory against the Texas Rangers.
Already in an early 5-0 deficit, all the Yankees could hope for was some length out of Moreno and to hopefully limit the damage enough to give their bats a chance. Instead, Moreno was flat-out awesome, earning a win by shoving 5.1 hitless innings while striking out five Rangers batters. He started 13 of the 17 hitters he faced with first-pitch strikes, and mustered a masterful 51/19 strike-to-ball ratio. By every measure, it was a stunning performance.
After that performance, the Yankees kept Moreno with the team. He took the mound again on August 1st against the White Sox, but was unimpressive and was put on the disabled list with elbow pain after the game, ultimately being done for the year. However, considering he has shown an ability to get big league hitters out, he could certainly be a factor at some point this year. Though based on his spring and experience with the team, Pinder probably gets the first crack at the big leagues if the team does decide it needs a fresh arm.
Rumbelow's injury probably doesn't change much for the left-handed relievers. Chasen Shreve and Andrew Miller are the only two lefty relievers on the team currently, and Aroldis Chapman will be added to that list once he's eligible to participate in games. However, if the team did want to call-up another lefty, James Pazos and Tyler Webb are waiting in Scranton, and Jacob Lindgren could be a factor if he's healthy and can find his effectiveness.
Outside of internal candidates, the Yankees could always explore external options. Brian Cashman could surprise everyone with a trade for a depth reliever, or even look into the free agent market to see who is available. One possible solution could be the recently released Jose Ramirez, who was part of the trade that brought Dustin Ackley to the Bronx. While he's likely nothing more than a depth reliever, he did have decent numbers in Triple-A before being shipped to Seattle. So if Cashman wants to make up the numbers, a reunion could be in the works, however unlikely.
Fortunately, it seems the Rumbelow injury won't hurt the bullpen depth too much, as there are a decent amount of options available if the team needs, so there's no need to worry just yet.