By now, we all know that the Yankees have been operating on a tight, self-imposed offseason budget, and most of the funds they’ve made available to themselves have been spent. However, there is a small amount still remaining, and the Yankees might be wise to spend it on their bullpen. After signing Darren O’Day to a one-year, $2.5 million contract, the Yankees may be able to nab a similar reliever for a similar price.
Brandon Kintzler has been all around Major League Baseball in his career. He was originally selected by the Yankees in the 40th round of the 2003 MLB draft, but didn’t sign. He spent the first six years of his career in Milwaukee, where he was a solid but unspectacular arm, somewhat akin to what Adam Warren was to the Yankees.
After struggling with injuries, he moved on to Minnesota, where he actually became the Twins’ closer. He saved 45 games for the Twins over parts of two seasons, and then had stops in Washington and Chicago as late-inning bullpen depth for playoff-ready teams. Back on the market at age-35, Kintzler ended up in Miami last year, and became the closer for an unexpected playoff team. Kintzler saved 12 games for the Marlins, pitched to a 2.22 ERA and closed out a playoff series win over the favored Cubs.
Despite that, Kintzler hasn’t drawn much interest on the market this offseason. Now 36 and never a pitcher known for his stuff, Kintzler’s luck may be due to run out. Although he had that sparkling ERA figure last year, he also had a 5.00 FIP and 1.32 WHIP, along with strikeout and whiff rates in the bottom five percent of the league. His game is more along the Tyler Clippard pitch-to-contact-but-hope-to-keep-it-in-the-park style rather than the more flashy relievers typically preferred by the Yankees.
Kintzler succeeds with subpar stuff by keeping the ball on the ground. His sinker is heavy, and generates an above-average ground ball rate. He also induced lots of soft contact, as evidenced by his 86.6 mph average exit velocity. He lives on the edges of the strike zone, and although he can’t blow by hitters, he can get them to over-swing.
Baseball Savant has a nifty feature where they compare players to others with similar statistical profiles, and interestingly enough, Kintzler was compared with Masahiro Tanaka and Jameson Taillon, two pitchers with obvious Yankee connections. Although the Yankees usually prefer heat out of the bullpen and craftiness in the rotation, they did just sign Darren O’Day, one of the softest tossers in Major League Baseball, so might Kintzler interest them?
In the end, probably not. The key difference between O’Day and Kintzler is that O’Day’s metrics all check out, even at age-38. However, Kintzler is showing signs of an impending decline underneath the surface numbers. Although he’d be a cheap add, the Yankees are probably better off seeing if a young reliever can grab the reins on a bullpen position instead of blocking them with another veteran.