The Yankees, as they are currently constructed, are one of the best teams in Major League Baseball. If they don’t make any more additions after adding Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon, they could very well make a deep playoff run. However, even having acquired some fortifications for their rotation, they could use more bullpen pieces to improve run prevention in the late innings.
Here at Pinstripe Alley, we have discussed several relievers that make sense for the Yankees, from Andrew Chafin, to Brad Hand, to Joakim Soria, and also recent signees Liam Hendriks and Archie Bradley. In their quest, they should consider right-hander Yusmeiro Petit, as well.
While he is not exactly overpowering - he has averaged less than eight strikeouts per nine innings three seasons in a row, and his career mark is 7.95 - Petit gets the job done with impressive command and a four-pitch arsenal. During his 13-year tenure in MLB, Petit has a 3.93 ERA, a 4.06 FIP, and a 4.16 xFIP. He is one of the most versatile bullpen arms in the majors, capable of making spot starts, throwing as a long man, a middle reliever, and even as a late-inning weapon.
Petit’s best years are probably behind him, as he turned 36 in November. However, he had a good 2020 that saw him finish with a 1.66 ERA in 21 2/3 frames with the Oakland Athletics. Other run prevention metrics were less kind to Petit in 2020, though. His FIP was 4.11 and his xFIP 5.07, probably because he is a fly ball pitcher who had a HR/FB rate of 9.7%, below the league average, last year. But while he is not a relief ace with a sky-high strikeout rate, he showed in the last four years that he still has plenty gas left in the tank.
Petit’s ERA figures from the last four seasons:
2017: 2.76 in 91.1 innings
2018: 3.00 in 93.0 innings
2019: 2.71 in 83.0 innings
2020: 1.66 in 21.2 innings
Petit does this with four pitches that, since 2017, have all graded positively according to FanGraphs’ pitch value, except for his 2019 curveball (-2.7.) His four-seamer averages around 88 and 89 mph, but it held batters to a .207 batting average (.222 xBA) in 2020. His three secondaries (cutter, changeup and the hook) all had at least a 30 percent whiff rate last season.
As you can see, command and a deep repertoire - for a reliever - are Petit’s assets. He knows how to pitch and can actually be a good change-of-pace from the high-octane guys in the Yankees’ bullpen.
Because of his age, and with several younger bullpen arms available in free agency, it’s quite likely that Petit’s price isn’t actually so high. For a contending team managing seemingly desperate to duck the luxury tax threshold, he makes perfect sense.
For a team like the Yankees, Petit wouldn’t need to be the closer. His role would be simple: get important outs and lengthen the bullpen to take some pressure off the starters and the three only reliable relievers on the roster so far in Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, and Chad Green. On a one-year deal, the Yankees could do far worse.