Coming into the 2019 season, the Yankees were deemed to have assembled “the greatest bullpen in MLB history.” Now, at the midseason point, the bullpen has not lived up to all the hype. Dellin Betances has yet to throw a single pitch this year due to an injury, and he’s not expected to return until at least August.
New York is tied with the Cincinnati Reds for the ninth best bullpen ERA in the league with a 4.05 ERA. Teams ahead of the Yanks include American League contenders such as the Indians, Rays and Astros, who are all in the top five. The Yankees not only need to bolster their starting rotation, but also their bullpen.
Speaking of the Reds, they are 41-46 heading into the break. In a weak National League Central, however, they sit just 4.5 games out of first. That said, FanGraphs still has the Cubs and Brewers as the favorites to duke it out for the division title, and they give the Reds a mere 9.6% chance to punch a ticket into the postseason.
Taking that into account, it seems as though Cincinnati will, in fact, fall short of a playoff berth. Putting the odds aside, the next few weeks will make or break the Reds’ season. If they show they are “for real” and can get above .500, they may add pieces to improve. On the other hand, if they do not exceed the benchmark, they could start selling their better players. If that becomes the case, Brian Cashman should call Reds GM Nick Krall and ask for the availability of his veteran closer, Raisel Iglesias.
For those who don’t know Iglesias, he is a 29-year-old flame-thrower with a career ERA of 3.48. He has saved 16 games for the Reds in 2019, which is good for the sixth-most in the NL. Iglesias strikeouts a ton of batters, as well. He has rung-up 47 hitters, which sits him at the 11th most in the Senior Circuit among relievers. He has been better in years past, but he’s still an above-average arm.
Iglesias has two main pitches: a fastball and a slider. His fourseam fastball touches an average of 95.1 mph and his slider is filthy. His changeup is his third pitch, as he throws it around 20% of the time, but it is definitely one to keep an eye on. It has a 58.8% chase rate, 29.4% swinging strike rate, and a .190 wOBA against.
In November of 2018, Iglesias signed a three-year contract worth $24.1 million with the Reds. In other words, he doesn’t hit the free agent market until 2022. Teams love players with years of control, and he has just that. Since he plays in the National League, he doesn’t get to face American League bats very often. In June, however, the Reds did go up against one of the top AL contenders, the Houston Astros, in a three-game series. Iglesias pitched in two of those games and faced seven total batters combined. He did not allow a hit in those 1.2 innings.
If he were to be shipped to the Bronx, Iglesias would not step into the closer role, as that’s Aroldis Chapman’s job. Back in May, Iglesias stated that the Reds are using him “horribly wrong” and he doesn’t like pitching in tie games. He believes he should only be used in save situations. Obviously, this would not fly well with how the Yankees bullpen is currently constructed.
The fact that Iglesias went to the media to express displeasure with his team should raise red flags in of itself. Putting his attitude away and evaluating his numbers instead, he has had trouble locating his pitches. Iglesias has walked 17 batters in 37.2 innings pitched. That ranks as the eighth-most by a reliever in the NL, and he’s made Reds fans sweat a lot this year. In 22.1 innings in late/close games, Iglesias owns a 5.24 ERA while surrendering 23 hits, 13 earned runs, and a WHIP of 1.52. Those are not too pretty, to say the least. His numbers with runners on base don’t get that much better, either.
That should give interested teams pause.
The Yankees have used Tommy Kahnle, Adam Ottavino, Zack Britton, and Aroldis Chapman as their “big four” out of the ‘pen this season. Outside of those guys, however, the bullpen isn’t all that scary. Iglesias could add another dimension to the relief staff, and trading for a another bullpen arm may become even more vital if the Yanks don’t think Dellin Betances will return. Even if he does, who knows how he’ll perform?
The Yanks need the bullpen to perform well to have success in the postseason due to the question marks surrounding their starting rotation. If Cashman thinks the price is right, he should pull the trigger and acquire Iglesias. He has an attractive contract and he’s had flashes of success in prior seasons. His numbers aren’t eye-popping, though, and his attitude may not fit in the Big Apple. It remains to be seen how Cashman will address the hole in the bullpen.