The free agent market is topped with elite starting pitchers like Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, but the Yankees seem to have their eyes on trade market for pitchers. They’ve been linked to Royals reliever Tim Hill, and now, they’ve been connected to Oakland A’s reliever Blake Treinen as a trade target.
The Bronx Bombers most notably need some reinforcements in their rotation, but they may decide to yet again double down on their bullpen strength. Ken Rosenthal reported that New York is interested in the 31-year-old righty to bolster their ‘pen.
Dellin Betances is currently a free agent, so the Yankees may be looking for a replacement to take his role if he doesn’t return. With Treinen available because of the A’s desire to cut payroll, New York would be taking a bit of a risk on him if they did acquire Treinen coming off a down year.
Treinen had by far his best season back in 2018. He threw just over 80 innings while striking out 100 batters, giving him a 0.78 ERA for the year and 3.6 fWAR. His 2019 campaign was a clear step down. He appeared in 57 games, which was the lowest of his five-year career since his rookie season, struck out 59, had an ERA near five, and had the worst fWAR of his career at -0.3.
The Yankees would be taking a gamble with a trade like this after seeing a major regression in his performance. But Treinen’s track record, and his filthy stuff, which was still on hand even as he struggled, will force some team to take a chance on him. If the Yankees rolled the dice and ended up with the 2018 version of Treinen, their bullpen would somehow look even more terrifying.
Treinen would be joining a loaded bullpen that includes Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, and Adam Ottavino, among others. Adding another a reliever would most likely frustrate many Yankees fans, what with the starting rotation appearing to need more reinforcement than an already fortified relief corps. Yet stacking up on a strength is something that Brian Cashman considered doing during this past July at the trade deadline, and followed through on last offseason, when the team added Ottavino and re-signed Britton.
A bet on Treinen would involve hoping his command positively regresses to the mean. He posted an awful 13.9% walk rate last year, more than four points higher than his career average. Treinen walked just 6.7% of batters faced in 2018, and 7.7% of batters in 2017. That kind of control, combined with his still top-flight strikeout stuff, could make Treinen a lights-out late-inning option yet again.
The A’s motivations for moving Treinen are obvious as well. Given his 2019 drop-off, the notoriously low-payroll club will balk at the seemingly reasonable $8 million Treinen will probably command in arbitration next season. While Treinen certainly stands to help the team if he bounces back, Oakland qualifies as one of the many franchises around MLB that would rather lower their risk involved by trading out a variable like Treinen in exchange for more cost-controlled talent.
There’s no doubt that the Yankees would be taking a some sort of risk by trading for a 31-year-old coming off of his worst pitching performance of his career. If he were able to turn the clock back to 2017, they could potentially create one of their best bullpens ever. Keep an eye out to see if the Yankees make the move.