The Yankees need to improve their bullpen and provide manager Aaron Boone with more arms to get those last outs in tough games. After Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, and Chad Green, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the formerly elite unit.
Fortunately for the Bombers, there are plenty of options in the free-agent pool when it comes to relievers. Liam Hendriks is the cream of the crop, but the Yankees don’t seem particularly inclined to splash the cash this offseason.
The good news is that after Hendriks, there are more alternatives that could conceivably and theoretically thrive in the Bronx. Brad Hand, Archie Bradley, Andrew Chafin, Kirby Yates, Shane Greene, David Robertson, Blake Treinen, and Trevor Rosenthal are just a few names the Yankees could, and should, consider.
Add this one to the list, too: Ryne Stanek. Not only does he makes sense as a low-risk, high-reward kind of free-agent signing, but as it turns out, the Yankees are reportedly interested in the right-handed flamethrower, per MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch.
But who is Ryne Stanek? Currently 29-years-old, Stanek is a power reliever with a big fastball (it sits in the high-90s, enough to finish in the 97th percentile, per Statcast, in 2019) and two very good secondaries in his slider and his splitter.
In 2019, the Tampa Bay Rays traded Stanek to the Miami Marlins in exchange for Nick Anderson (other pieces were involved in the transaction.) The deal evidently didn’t work out very well for the Fish, as the righty had a 5.48 ERA in 21.1 frames to finish 2019 and a 7.20 ERA in 10 innings in 2020.
The Marlins decided to non-tender Stanek, and since then, a couple of teams have been interested in his services. Most recently, the Cincinnati Reds and the Yankees were known to be among those clubs.
And in spite of his poor 2020, it’s easy to see why. Stanek surely won’t cost too much in terms of salary, and he offers a high-upside arm in relief. At the moment of the trade last year, he was running a 3.40 ERA with Tampa in 55.2 innings, to go along with 61 punchouts. In 2018, he was also quite stellar, with a 2.98 ERA (3.55 FIP) and a 10.99 K/9 in 66.1 frames.
Stanek thrived with an analytics-driven organization like the Rays, and now that the Yankees have seemingly assigned more resources to that department, going after Stanek makes sense. He certainly has the goods to rebound. In addition to his high-velo fastball, it also has some spin, as he was in the 72nd percentile in that department in 2019. But his secondary offerings aren’t too far behind when he’s on.
As the 2020 data sample is far too small to draw any conclusive arguments, 2019 provides a bit larger sample size, at 77.0 innings. In 2019, Stanek’s slider had a 45.5 whiff rate, and his splitter had a 57.3 mark (!) which is quite impressive. The expected wOBA (xwOBA) on that last pitch was a microscopic .146.
The splitter moves like this:
Ryne Stanek, Filthy 88mph Splitter...and Stanek-y Leg K Strut. pic.twitter.com/puAz5EjhmL— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 1, 2019
And the slider:
Ryne Stanek, 90mph Gyro Spin Slider. pic.twitter.com/ykk69rrdvz— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 1, 2019
By all accounts, Stanek is healthy. And if that’s the case, Sam Briend and Matt Blake could have something to work with, hoping that he can regain the confidence and consistency that made him such an effective reliever during his time with the Rays.