As the Yankees keep looking for potential bullpen upgrades, Wednesday’s non-tender deadline left them with several new names hitting the market. In addition to the already existing pool of free agent relievers, hurlers like Ryne Stanek, Matt Wisler, and John Brebbia are now looking for a new team.
The biggest name of all, among relievers at least, is Archie Bradley. It would make a ton of sense for the Yankees to kick the tires on him, since they need to reinforce their bullpen if they want to make a deep postseason run in 2021.
As we have repeatedly said over the last few weeks, Yankees skipper Aaron Boone was left with only Chad Green, Zack Britton, and Aroldis Chapman as trustworthy relievers this October. Adam Ottavino is not what he used to be, Tommy Kahnle was lost to injury and is now a free agent, Jonathan Holder was non-tendered, and guys like Jonathan Loáisiga and Luis Cessa shouldn’t be handling high-leverage work.
Maybe the Yankees don’t have the funds to go after Liam Hendriks, the biggest name in the reliever market. However, they could make a run at Bradley, a highly successful reliever with experience and potential to unlock another level.
Bradley, a 28-year-old right-hander, has a career 3.91 ERA, a 3.65 FIP, a 3.92 xFIP, and a 3.94 SIERA. However, those numbers include two horrid seasons as a starter with the Arizona Diamondbacks — he posted 34 starts with an ERA over 5.00.
An elite reliever
As a reliever, Bradley has a 2.82 ERA, a 3.18 FIP and a 3.60 xFIP. He has thrown 233.1 innings from the bullpen and carries a 9.91 career K/9 in relief appearances, so we have enough data to establish that he is a quality reliever with some swing-and-miss stuff.
Additionally, Bradley offers a very enticing trait: he is extremely stingy with the home runs, as he only allowed 0.49 per nine innings in 2020 and 0.83 for his career. Between two teams in the shortened 2020 season, Bradley had a 2.95 ERA and a 2.59 FIP in 18.1 frames. He had a career-best BB/9, with 1.47.
So how could Bradley have even more untapped potential? It’s all in his pitch mix. He had an amazing 2020 by throwing a 94 mph four-seamer 60 percent of the time, and mixing his curveball as his second most frequent offering.
The hook, which he threw roughly 22 percent of the time, had a very good .275 xwOBA, but a rather low 16.7 whiff rate. Considering that it had a 30.5 whiff rate in 2019, it could be just small sample size noise.
However, his changeup, which he used 11 percent of the time, had a jaw-dropping .141 xWOBA, a 80.1 mph average exit velocity against, and a 38.9 whiff rate. Of course, the small sample caveat could apply here too, but the pitch had a 32.4 whiff rate in 2019. Mixing it up even more could make Bradley even nastier.
Bradley, according to MLB Trade Rumors, was expected to make about $4.3 million in arbitration. Are you going to tell me that is off the Yankees’ budget?