One of the great sayings in baseball is that you can never have enough pitching. Although that could be said about every position, it’s really different from position players. No matter how much you accumulate pitching talent, there will be points during the season where you’re likely to be short-handed.
The notion of shipping away pitching surplus simply due to apparent excess is often the wrong one. For example, the rumor is that the White Sox picked up Craig Kimbrel’s option just to get back some assets and trade him after the reliever struggled in a non-closer role during the second half. Why wouldn’t you at least try to keep Kimbrel as the closer? He didn’t adjust well to a different role, and Chicago could at least discuss that with Liam Hendriks, who was pretty open in the past about pitching whenever he was needed. If you already know that it isn’t a possibility then it’s OK.
With all of this in mind, this is the perfect time to address a realistic trade target for the Yankees to add even more depth to the bullpen while maintaining most of the allotted budget impact for improvements elsewhere. He’s flown under the radar thanks in no small part to the organization he pitches for being at the bottom of the league, but Scott Barlow has put together a resume worthy of notice.
Barlow was selected in the sixth round of the 2011 Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers as a starter. He spent six years in the minor league system for the Dodgers doing exactly that, before being granted free agency at the end of a very strong 2017. A month later, he signed with the Royals and in that very first year he already got the call to the bigs.
Barlow lives in the mid-90’s and has basically a three-pitch mix, complementing that four-seamer with a slider and a curveball. His background as a starter gives him the ability to go multiple innings if needed, having done that 13 times in 2021 alone. The right-hander has also been durable since reaching the majors, averaging 72.1 innings in his two full 162-game seasons.
Scott Barlow in 2021:
74.1 IP - 29.2 K% - .221 AVG
.275 wOBA - .283 xWOBA - 55 ERA-
If you have never seen him pitch, Baseball Savant compares him to Chicago’s Ryan Tepera and San Francisco’s Camilo Doval (among others). As strong comparisons in repertoire, both also pitched really well in the past season. Barlow is not a one-year wonder either, his ability to miss the bats has been a constant:
2019: 83rd - 2020: 84th - 2021: 86th
2019: 91st - 2020: 95th - 2021: 95th
A career CSW% of 32.0 slots Barlow into a solid and dependable cast among relievers, not quite elite but more than capable of deepening anyone’s bullpen. Because he pitches for the Royals and didn’t really enter the big leagues with that pedigree, Barlow is a player that probably doesn’t get the attention he deserves, however the Royals are very aware of his capabilities and will drive a hard bargain for his services. Even so, the Yankees will be hard pressed to find a more attractive option for the bullpen.
Barlow has the track record beyond just the one year, he comes with multiple years of team control and his salary leaves the budget more or less untouched for improvements elsewhere. The bullpen was one of the strongest parts of the team, and it was reinforced with smart trades for effective relievers from struggling teams. Barlow could be the next in line, if the Yankees choose to go this route.