The Yankees have made a priority of putting together a super bullpen in recent seasons. Right now, hurlers such as Aroldis Chapman, Tommy Kahnle, Chad Green, Adam Ottavino, and Zack Britton are employed by the team and ready to roll in 2020. However, that relief corps could plausibly be even better.
Dellin Betances, who missed most of this season with lat and shoulder issues and tore his Achilles in his first game back from the former injuries, is now a free agent. We’ve written before that it shouldn’t be hard for the Yankees to bring back Betances at least for the short term, with the right-hander unlikely to secure a long-term deal after his unfortunately timed injuries.
Having Betances, who will reportedly be ready in time for spring training, back would provide another lethal weapon to that uber bullpen. But why stop there?
A new, enticing free agent
The non-tender deadline passed on Monday, and several interesting names have now joined the free agent pool. One of them is Blake Treinen, who was let go by the Oakland Athletics after he registered an ugly 4.91 ERA (5.14 FIP) in 58.2 innings this season.
However, it should be pointed out that Treinen had one of the most dominant seasons in recent memory in 2018, running a 0.78 ERA and 1.82 FIP in 80.1 frames. That year he had a 11.20 K/9 and only a 2.35 BB/9. He accrued 3.6 fWAR, which is mind-boggling for a reliever. Only 27.7 percent of the batted balls against him were of the hard variety.
2019 wasn’t as kind. He was shut down in September with a stress reaction in his back and also missed a little under two weeks in June with a right shoulder strain. Right elbow discomfort also bothered in May.
That up-and-down season can make it easy to forget just how dominant can be. Check out his ridiculous Statcast profile from 2018:
Contrast those percentiles with Treinen’s profile in 2019:
His control deteriorated quite a bit in 2019, jumping from 2.35 BB/9 in 2018 to 5.68 this year. He was also victimized by the long ball, as he ran a 1.38 HR/9, while his previous career high was the 0.71 he registered in 2017.
Treinen projected to make something in the neighborhood of $8 million via salary arbitration, but is now free to look for a team, and won’t be lacking suitors. The Yankees should be among those, because it doesn’t have to be a matter of one or the other between Treinen and Betances. There is room for two more hard-throwing right-handers!
It isn’t completely clear what kind of market each pitcher will have, but it is certain that neither will require a huge commitment. And if the Yankees can have both, then why not entertain the idea? We know Treinen has the tools to succeed and we also know that he had to deal with several injuries in 2019. There is serious bounceback potential here.
Here is both hurlers’ performance in 2017 and 2018:
Betances and Treinen, 2017 and 2018
Look at Betances’ insane K/9 numbers and Treinen’s impressive xwOBA and minuscule barrel percentage in 2018, both in the 99th percentile. Now imagine having both of them in your team’s bullpen. Those are elite seasons right there, and we are only a year removed from them! It is well within the realm of possibility that both Treinen and Betances will at least resemble their primes next season, given they are essentially still in their primes.
Think about this: if the Yankees badly need a strikeout, Betances can make an appearance to put out the fire. If they want to increase the odds of a double play-inducing ground ball, they could call Treinen and his career 2.55 GB/FB. Treinen also has some swing and miss to his game. He could be something similar to a right-handed version of Zack Britton.
Sure, the Yankees bullpen is already elite with Ottavino, Green, Chapman, Britton, and Kahnle. Add Betances and Treinen to that list and it would be something to behold, provided that the latter can have a bounceback season. At 31-years-old, it remains a legitimate possibility.