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Yankees Potential Trade Target: Daniel Bard

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Bard struggled in 2020, but also showed signs of promise.

Colorado Rockies v Atlanta Braves Photo by Adam Hagy/Getty Images

A few days ago I addressed Scott Barlow as a possible trade target for the Yankees and regardless of what the perception is around him, he sits more at a high end tier when you combine all the factors like track record, years of control, and current salary.

The haul for Barlow might not be reminiscent of peak Andrew Miller or what the Brewers are currently asking for Josh Hader, however it is a stretch to believe that Dayton Moore will give up his best reliever without a significant return. What that package ultimately looks like it’s hard to predict, but for the purposes of covering all bases, there are other alternatives that could be had on the market, currently.

Today we’ll talk about one of the biggest recent redemption stories in baseball — the 36-year-old Rockies reliever, Daniel Bard. Originally drafted by the New York Yankees out of high school in the 20th round of the 2003 MLB Draft, Bard opted to go to college at North Carolina — a move that paid off big time, as three years later the Red Sox chose him in the first round with the 28th pick.

It didn’t take long for the Tar Heel to reach the big leagues, a year later he was already having success in the Red Sox pen, and from 2009-11 he was one of the more effective relievers in the sport. Bard totaled 197 innings in 192 games over that stretch, pitching to a 2.88 ERA and 3.22 FIP, striking out 26.8 percent of batters while walking only 9.6 percent of his opponents.

The struggles, however, began in 2012 and very quickly Bard developed the yips — he simply couldn’t throw a ball automatically like he did for the majority of his life. Bard attempted everything in his journey to return to a big league mound from 2013 until his retirement in 2017, going as far as trying to throw submarine, something unthinkable for a pitcher with a blazing fastball like his was.

Bard began working as a mental instructor in 2018 for the D-Backs, and little did he know that the work he was doing for other players would also help him return to a big-league mound — even though at that point it probably wasn’t a priority in any shape or form for him. Bard has successfully made his comeback and will now enter his last year of arbitration eligibility with the Rockies organization, and although he struggled a bit in the past season, there’s reason for optimism and it also means that the price tag could be fairly reasonable.

On the surface a jump from a 3.65 ERA to 5.21 will raise questions, especially when the former was achieved during a shortened 2020 season, but it doesn’t change the fact that a lot of what you look for in order to sustain success is there:

2020-21

Fastball velo: 97.3 - 97.6

Whiff% percentile: 64 - 77

xwOBA: .303 - .315

xwOBACON; .360 - .365

Bard had strikeout numbers and gave up a quality of contact pretty similar to each other, that big change in ERA stems from a massive increase in HR/FB ratio going from 8.7 to 14.3 (which is beyond awful and likely to regress to a more reasonable total). Bard will be a rental and he didn’t have the most encouraging 2021, but he’s had recent success and underlying measures to instill confidence going forward. The return going to Colorado shouldn’t be significant, a plus for any team trying to add depth to a bullpen without allocating many resources, and the upside is there.